Sometimes it’s shocking the music industry survived the people who ran it.

Aladdin Records had been one of the stronger independent record companies on the scene in the early rock era, anchored by Amos Milburn, arguably the biggest star of the 1940’s rock landscape and certainly the most consistently good in terms of the quality and variety of his output.

Yet by the early 1950’s his record label had been increasingly trying to derail his success with what they chose to release… first issuing a bunch of cuts that were essentially straight down the line remakes of his biggest hits, albeit with new lyrics and titles to deceive consumers, and more recently they’ve focused on turning his public image into that of a blissful drunk as they’re trying to capitalize on a huge hit with drinking as its theme.

Today we thankfully get neither of those troubling trends, but instead have to face the prospects of a throwaway instrumental taking up a valuable side of a single in the midst of rock’s most competitive year to date.

With friends like these…


Waste Not, Want Not
It’s probably inevitable – maybe even sensible – that record companies tend not to like wasting material they’ve recorded, but in this era you had only three choices, none of which were that appealing to outfits constantly looking at the bottom line.

You could be the first independent label to compile a full length album on the newly arrived 33 RPM long playing records, sticking songs like this on Side Two, Track Six, knowing full well that it wouldn’t sell enough copies to make it worth the printing and shipping costs. Or you could patiently wait forty years until the CD era when they’d make for much sought after “lost” tracks by a dwindling number of fanatics who still care about such songs from so long ago.

Or you could do what Aladdin Records did with Boogie Woogie which was to throw this simple instrumental with a generic title that will attract no excitement on its own on the flip side of a single and in the process clear their shelves of a backlog of material without “wasting” a potentially valuable new song on the back of a single with enough promise to be profitable without any help.

There’s two problems with that practice however. The first is that in the singles era an artist has very few opportunities to make their mark and while at this stage of his career Milburn hardly has to make every side count in order to keep working, he’s somebody whose releases come with certain expectations that need to be met to satisfy loyal audiences who’ve consistently supported him for years.

The other problem though is this… of all of the great unused tracks in Milburn’s catalog, including some that had every appearance of hits when they were cut, Aladdin sees fit to ignore all of those just so they can release THIS two year old afterthought?!?!

Hey Now, What’s That Sound?
Of course anything Amos Milburn recorded during 1949 was bound to show some skill, but there’s a different between being “well played” and something that makes for a good record which this definitely is not.

About the best case we can make for its commercial availability is that Boogie Woogie comes from the stretch when Milburn’s road band led by saxophonist Don Wilkerson, were also backing him in the studio rather than the session aces led by producer Maxwell Davis on tenor.

Considering few – if any – people reading this today had the good fortune to see The Chickenshackers in person during this period, then the existence of this on tape is welcome from an historical perspective, but at the time it saw the light of day there was no real need for it since you could catch Milburn’s show when they came through town each year.

Still, let’s at least give them their due for their musicianship, as Amos gets to show off his piano skills with a fairly rudimentary boogie riff on the keys – nicely played as always, but without much purpose to it, not even a catchy melody or any memorable showpiece that will stop you in your tracks.

It’s a piano exercise really, maybe one carried out at a level of precision far beyond any mere student could pull off, but not so complex it couldn’t be approximated by those who’ve got more than a few lessons under their belt.

Distracting you during this stretch however is a weird pump-like sound going on behind him. Your first guess is it’s a dog that has been stirred by the music and is a little annoyed, but can’t quite make up its mind whether to bark or not, so instead offers a few half-hearted “woofs” and then loses interest.

The other possibility is it was a duck with allergies wheezing along to the rhythm, but I don’t see any waterfowl on the session sheets so it might be an asthmatic baritone sax but it’s not really playing notes, just gurgling in a way that does this no favors.

The other saxophones gradually make their presence known as the record goes along, shifting the focus from Milburn to the horns in a more subtle fashion but while they too aren’t having trouble playing their parts, their parts aren’t very captivating on their own.

And so it goes…


The Last Present Under The Tree
Any reasonably capable musician, which Milburn and the band surely were, could play something like this without breaking a sweat which is generally what these guys did as this was probably a routine warm up for them when getting down to rehearsing.

So while we can’t fault the technical aspects of their playing, we can fault it for everything else starting with the fact they didn’t bother crafting a more intricate song to work out on, something to really let each of them shine.

Milburn gets the biggest chance but even his standalone parts are pretty basic. The horns are energetic but largely going through the motions as there’s no improvising whatsoever here, just following a predictable pattern that goes nowhere. Pleasant enough not to be bothered by it, but hardly giving you a reason to pay any attention either.

As a record culled from the last cut of a seven song session a week before Christmas 1949 and held back for nearly two years it’d be hard to go into a record with any less anticipation than we’d have for Boogie Woogie but even so it barely meets that low bar.

It’s a declining series of reactions you get as a fan when considering something of this nature after eagerly anticipating what was to come any time an Amos Milburn single hit the streets.

Musically competent, creatively spent and commercially stagnant… a wasted half of a single for someone who is far too good to ever have to resort to this to get a product to market.


(Visit the Artist page of Amos Milburn for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)