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ALADDIN 3090; MAY 1951



Some artists are so good and so consistent that we take it for granted that when a single of theirs is released that it is going to meet with our approval.

In fact, certain artists, Amos Milburn among them, are virtually assured of being near or at the top of that month’s release for all rock acts.

It’s not preordained that anyone will automatically land in the green numbers for most of their records, after all there’s no guarantee in music as in life, but if you were a gambler and saw the names scheduled for releases in May 1951 – some all-time great artists among them for what it’s worth – you probably would consider it as safe a bet as possible to lay some money down on Milburn scoring highly.

Furthermore, if there were proposition bets to make on the side it’s safe to say that all but the most hardcore believer in long-shots would never place a wager that his next single would elicit the following response:

What the hell is THIS supposed to be?

You’re guess is as good as mine.


Bang It On The Table… And Hope The Record Breaks
Two of the biggest complaints people tend to have with an artist’s output are contradictory in nature.

On one hand if they stick to formula the artist is raked over the coals for repeating themselves, the record label is criticized for not trusting their artist’s creative abilities and for wrongly assuming that their fans are incapable of appreciating new approaches and would prefer to be spoon fed blatant imitations of past glories.

At times Aladdin Records have been guilty of this with Amos Milburn, having him churn out a few clear-cut replications of his biggest hits. The fact that he was so talented allowed some of them to stand out on their own but it remained a sticking point when it comes to just how much leeway they were willing to grant him.

On the other hand artists get equally criticized when they venture TOO FAR from their established sound. It stands to reason the more risks you take the more likely it is those risks will cause you to fall on your face altogether. We don’t want to hear Wynonie Harris singing Appalachian folk ballads, Big Jay McNeely taking his saxophone to cut flowery tunes for Hollywood musicals or Chubby Newsome singing sappy pop love songs.

And for that matter we definitely do not want to hear Amos Milburn churning out high-spirited nonsense like Everybody Clap Hands with a broad grin on his face like some turn of the century minstrel.

You may not be surprised to find out that this song was recently a pop novelty record from last fall issued on the oldest and most decrepitumm… most venerated of labels, Columbia, by the immortal Beatrice Kay and Her Kay Jammers.

Apparently when Milburn found himself owing her a lot of money after a remarkable losing streak at baccarat in an illegal hole in the wall gambling den in Las Cruces, New Mexico he agreed to record this insipid song to get out of her debt… or at least I HOPE that’s the excuse he’s got because any other explanation just isn’t going to cut it.

Grab A Knife… And Stab The Person Responsible
The version by Kay is… well, garbage.

But that’s not to say she completely whiffed on what she was trying to do, I think she nailed her intent with relative ease. It’s just that the kind of song she was going for was kind of like watching somebody in 2022 communicate with the outside world using rotary phones hanging in their kitchen. It’s still technically capable of achieving that feat but no longer what is necessary to really stay connected to the world in the truest sense.

Beatrice Kay and her record was something that had no future, yet Columbia Records of course did not realize this because, for all of their success, THEY had a very diminished future unless they embraced stylistic changes on the horizon.

Aladdin Records should’ve known this because they WERE the future… if not them specifically, then those like them who were focusing on rock ‘n’ roll and other genres neglected by the major companies. The change was well underway by now of course but the total transformation of the market was still a ways off and as a result there apparently was still some doubt and confusion at the indie labels who viewed Beatrice Kay records as having some sort of cache that was worth aiming for.

Amos Milburn is not the guy to do though. Give this job to Calvin Boze or some other artist on their roster who was still viable in their own diminished fields based on rapidly crumbling musical foundations.

Yet here Milburn is, gamely trying to breathe some life into the decaying corpse that is Everybody Clap Hands.

Does he succeed? I mean, can we even CALL it success if he pulls this crap out of the garbage disposal?


Everybody Make A Noise
Milburn with his tonsils yanked out before the session could still out-sing former Vaudevillian Beatrice Kay so that part of the equation is already settled as soon as he opens his mouth.

Sure enough, somehow he manages to instill some actual melody and rhythm to what otherwise is a silly skit and so if you never heard the original you might say this was kind of contrived but still a solid performance. At least he’s adding musical emphasis to what had been conceived to emphasize humor instead and that change is entirely welcome even if the lyrics are doing him no favors in this regard.

Certainly the streamlined arrangement Maxwell Davis gives him helps enormously as he hauls in a full arsenal of drums, horns, guitar and Milburn’s own piano to try and disguise the stench of the brassy pizzazz of Kay’s version, but there’s only so much you can do with this.

The sax solo is nice, but then again a sax instrumental would’ve been nicer than Everybody Clap Hands. Unfortunately as solid as that section is Milburn’s ensuing piano solo hands much of that back as it’s nowhere near smooth enough nor grooving enough to pay off. It wanders around, presumably looking for a back door to sneak Amos out through.

Which brings us back to the vocals and the story, or what passes for one, and trying to discern whether Milburn was fully on board with this or if he was just gritting his teeth to get through it, doing his best to simply ensure it didn’t drag his reputation down with it.

We probably will never know.

Let’s All Get Together… And Revolt
We like to think of rock stars of this stature being intractable purists, defying record labels and blazing an artistic path of their own choosing, but that’s a fantasy and always has been. The record business is unfortunately one of endless compromises, distasteful and regrettable, but often essential and it’s idealistic of us to think otherwise.

If we can swallow that bitter pill what we’re left with is a smattering of ill-conceived records scattered among their true artistic gems and it’s up to us to be able to discern which is which.

Record companies will always try and peddle their shortsighted ideas of what might be a potential hit on you, seeing something just out of their grasp as infinitely more promising than what they already have in their hip pocket, betraying Milburn’s core constituency in the process by shepherding us all into a locked room with no windows, telling us to put on a happy face and Everybody Clap Hands.

But we don’t have to listen. In fact, what you reject out of hand says more about you than what you blithely accept.

You need to remember that there are a few other things you can do with your hands rather than clap along mindlessly when you’re given something like this that insults your tastes by refuting the very thing that drew you to Milburn in the first place and it’s up to you to exert that power.

I suggest curling those hands into fists and knocking on the door of Aladdin Records. When either Eddie or Leo Mesner opens it and identify themselves as owner of the label, use those fists to punch their lights out, then pick their pockets to get the 79 cents you wasted on this and go buy yourself somebody else’s record instead… just preferably not one by Beatrice Fuckin’ Kay.


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