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And so we head into Year Two of Rock ‘n’ Roll, at least on the calendar. In truth it was month five, but who’s really counting?

Hello Boogie
What the first four months in rock ‘n’ roll had shown us was a startling sense of cohesion achieved more by chance than by plan, yet coming off as if it were all somehow preordained. In the years since there’s been half-joking references made to “The Rock Gods” whenever certain implausible events happen, yet when you get right down to it the birth of rock itself was the most unlikely series of events imaginable.

Each of the building blocks required to transform the music from fringe curiosity to a full-fledged diverse musical and cultural movement fell into place with remarkable precision from the moment Roy Brown unleashed Good Rocking Tonight on the world in September 1947. All of the necessary stylistic wrinkles to ensure rock music wouldn’t just be a stagnant sound, rigidly defined and eternally confined to just that one unchanging blueprint came one after another in rapid procession. The female perspective, the vocal groups adding harmony to the equation, the instrumental party-starters and the sinister mood-setters, the ribald after hours tales and the songs of protest and songs of seduction… all using slightly different techniques to connect yet all fitting together seamlessly and in the process combining to make rock deeper, stronger and more appealing to a broad, and previously culturally dismissed, segment of society.

You couldn’t have drawn up a game plan that was any more effective.

But of the early pioneers, both the movers and shakers (and headline makers) who’d go on to define rock in the 1940’s, as well the largely incidental also-rans whose contributions amounted to little more then filling up seats in the congregation to give the crowd scenes more depth, the one figure who – shockingly – seemed as though he were in danger of being lost in the shuffle was Amos Milburn, who just happened to be perhaps THE most talented all-around figure in rock to date.

How’d that ever happen?!?!?

First Impressions
In the waning months of 1947 Milburn had released two records and both were above average – at least according to the scores handed out here on Spontaneous Lunacy, whatever that’s worth.

Yet as good as they were, as proficient as he seemed in every regard – vocally, instrumentally, songwriter, you name it – none of those sides were likely enough to get him to really stand out amongst the crowd who were staking their claim in rock ‘n’ roll. The boisterous shouts of Roy Brown coming out of the gate back in September drew your attention right away. The sublime harmonies and shockingly low bass rumblings of Jimmy Ricks and The Ravens turned heads when they came along. The honking and squealing workouts by Paul Williams and Earl Bostic on saxophones could wake the dead. Even the crude lyrical boasts of Crown Prince Waterford and Buster Bennett were sure to leave listeners bug-eyed at what they’d heard.

Amos Milburn though, a singer who made everything he did seem effortless, was sure to be overlooked by comparison.

It’s not that he couldn’t rock as hard as anybody, in fact he’d already done so as far back as 1946, but that was before rock ‘n’ roll itself had come into existence and his early proto-rock sides had come and gone without making too much noise. Now that the crop he’d helped plant had sprouted he seemed to be slow in harvesting it.

But it was all just circumstance, an unfortunate bit of bad timing and poor choices when it came to Aladdin’s decisions for which of his songs to issue to take advantage of the new musical landscape. Maybe they’d figured since his earlier hard-charging performances hadn’t done much commercially they were better off going with something more subtle and seeing if that’d connect a little better. My Love Is Limited was a great song and performance after all, surely there’d be a market for that. Its flip side Blues At Sundown was no slouch itself and a month later Sad And Blue solidified his claim to having a firm handle on the sleepy melancholy perspective in rock. Yet amidst all the shouting, screeching, squealing and dirty lyrics that everyone else was putting out nobody noticed the cool cat off in the corner laying down some soulful sides with a little more depth of feeling.

So when those fell flat Aladdin took a look around, correctly identified what was making waves for others and pulled out something different from Milburn’s overstuffed bag of tricks to compete with all the clamor.

What’s the saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression. If so nobody bothered telling Amos Milburn that because on Bye Bye Boogie he just about knocks you over as he states his own claim to be a rock legend with a storming performance that embodied everything rock ‘n’ roll music was shaping up to be.



Don’t Ever Try To Stop Me
Hammering away on the keys Milburn sets a torrid pace from the start. He seems as if he were shot out of a canon after drinking a fifth of nitroglycerin to ensure there’d be a big enough explosion when the fuse was lit to get him into orbit. The opening alone would be enough to cause heart attacks in the pop music kingdom as his raw full-throated vocals are full of exuberance, telling off the woman he’s with in no uncertain terms while the piano pounds away incessantly, playing an aggressive, almost savage boogie that sounds downright violent in nature.

His longtime musical cohort and producer Maxwell Davis’s first appearance on saxophone (with Amos calling out “Blow Maxwell!” to lead into it) starts off rather mellow by comparison, almost as if he thought his pal was cutting another languid plea rather than a hellacious rocker, but he soon catches on and digs deeper to match Milburn’s intensity. Before long the two of them are in lockstep as they race with one another throughout the second half of the lonnnnng instrumental break, one that becomes so wild that you wished they made this a two-sided record and let the instrumental part of the equation serve as the flip-side all by itself. It’s that good.

As strong as Davis is in support Bye Bye Boogie is still Milburn’s show through and through, as he seems to want to leave no doubt where he stands in the big picture of rock. His voice whines like a finely tuned engine, impatient and confident. Always an underrated singer he didn’t have dynamic gospel-infused pipes of Roy Brown or Andrew Tibbs but was very versatile and always knew how to best apply the skills he did possess to put any song over.

Here he just lets rip and trusts you’ll hang on for the ride. Meanwhile, just to make sure you don’t get any notion of jumping off once they get up to speed, he stomps on the gas even more with his ferocious playing – for which he was definitely not underrated – as his piano solo shows off a nimble right hand and a rock-solid left that made him the premier artist on the instrument in rock’s earliest days. He hurtles along at breakneck speed, loud and defiant, breaking every traffic ordinance on the books, tickets piling up but never once pulling over and surrendering the keys to the car until he arrives at his destination.

The exhilaration is contagious. From start to finish he nearly outraces the rest of the band, so anxious to get on with it, whatever IT is, that he can’t sit still.

In competition with the adrenaline rush of the track the lyrics are going to lose the battle and are the song’s weakest aspect (though with some good lines tossed in along the way) but they serve as merely a generic framework to build his delivery upon as he eagerly tells off this woman he’d been with who no longer races his motor, a woman in essence who represents yesterday’s musical motifs, refined and proper, letting her know as he shoves her out the door that he’s had it with this coy game of innocently flirty cat and mouse. He no longer has the patience for such things.

He’s restless, frustrated… horny dammit, and has no more time to waste on long walks in the park where holding hands and a peck on the cheek is the best outcome you can expect. You’re only young once after all and who knows how long this rock ‘n’ roll party will last before they break it up and throw everybody in jail on morals charges. So before they do you better get some.

Amos Milburn GOT some… then by the sounds of it he went back out and got even more!


Wake Up Now, Pretty Baby
This was the musical territory that was being audaciously carved out by a new generation of hell-raisers as 1948 got underway, loudly and defiantly proclaiming tomorrow was here at last.

Urbane this is not. Cocktail blues were fine for a night out with a woman you were trying to elegantly seduce, both of you dressed to the nines, a little money in your pocket, a nice dinner, some slow dancing maybe, and a few drinks with fancy names to lower inhibitions without the intent being too blatant and crass. Those forays could be hit or miss affairs however and thus the expenditure wasn’t always worth it. Milburn had apparently been out on these dates enough times with no success to find that approach lacking.

Bye Bye Boogie is the kiss off to that way of life. Here Milburn rips off his coat and tie, heads to the dark smoky club around the corner, maybe stopping in the alley for a snort from a bottle being passed around and a few rolls in a craps game that sprung up, then heads inside, by himself, but definitely not for long.

Essentially that’s what rock was shaping up to be. I’ve mentioned “attitude” in a number of reviews, but maybe haven’t quite explained what that means. The above scenario is precisely what it means.

Rock ‘n’ roll is music for those on the prowl. It contains a certain heightened expectation, an edginess, the electricity inherent in a wild night on the town where anything might happen. No clocks, no reservations needed, no worries, but no rules either, and most importantly no guilty conscience weighing on you for your sinful nocturnal deeds once morning comes.

Freedom in other words, which when you come right down to it is the entire objective of rock music and those who partake in it. That was the case in 1948 and it’s still the case today.

Rock ‘n’ roll was still young as 1948 dawned and this was one of its first nights on the prowl, a time when anything and everything seems possible. In saying goodbye to whomever he felt was holding him back, be it a woman or a style of music that was stuck in the past, Amos Milburn was now back on the prowl himself and ready to find out what was possible.

If 1947 got the fire smoldering, watch out, because 1948 is already shaping up to see that fire spread into a raging inferno.


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