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Here’s a question for ya…

Is it better to be on top of the world, the biggest thing going for awhile, knowing that when you begin your descent the drop off will seem much more extreme even if you still remain pretty big… or is it better to be among the most popular around because the fluctuations from being high on that list to a little bit lower won’t affect you as much?

Amos Milburn didn’t have a choice in this matter of course after he shot up the rankings to become the preeminent rock star in late 1948 which meant eventually he had nowhere to go but down.

While he’s managed to remain a big name in rock circles he’s no longer the king of the mountain and so even when he scores a hit your reaction isn’t quite the same.

Instead of being excited to hear it, anxious to see how much higher he’s raised the bar this time out, you approach it cautiously, worried that it’s going to seem a major disappointment compared to past benchmarks.

Well, let’s just say you were right to worry.


I Haven’t Slept For Many Days
The last time Amos Milburn was on the charts was in the spring of 1951 with a two sided hit and while that doesn’t seem that long ago when looking at the calendar – ten months give or take a week – remember that in one twelve month span just a few years back he notched a whopping ten hits including three Number Ones.

When looking back from the present we also know that this will be his only charting record for all of 1952, for one measly week at that, so it’s pretty safe to say that while the name recognition may still be high, the interest in Milburn’s output has sunk below water level.

Music history is littered with artists who have similar commercial rise and falls and it’s nothing to get alarmed about. Artists typically enjoy only a brief period of peak creativity and when their style also reflects a newer sound just coming into its own they’re going to benefit from that. Once that sound becomes more widely accepted and imitators spring up – Little Willie Littlefield being the most prominent in Milburn’s case – you tend to see diminishing returns as you can hear that type of record everywhere you look so you no longer stand out as much.

Furthermore audiences change over time and younger fans coming along will seek their own musical heroes, further reducing the appeal of established stars.

But when that also happens to coincide with a drop-off in quality of the material, then it’s no wonder that Milburn would be Thinking And Drinking as he contemplates how he went from the top of the rock pile to middle of the pack in such short order.

The answer is fairly obvious though… the records aren’t nearly as good as they once were and this single, minor hit or not, is proof of that. 96 Proof in fact.

Can’t Stop Talkin’ About What You Did To Me
There’s nothing innovative or interesting about this record.

In fact it sounds like someone going through the motions creatively.

For starters we have yet another record dealing with intoxicating spirits – and once again not in a celebratory way either – following his last Number One hit, Bad Bad Whiskey, from late 1950. At the time that record seemed to revive his fortunes which had begun to sink from their late 1940’s crest thanks largely to the idiotic decisions of Aladdin Records who had him start covering songs from outside genres for reasons known to only them.

He’s already revisited this topic once on a surprisingly good Just One More Drink, but as with most drinkers it’s never just “one more”. From here on in it will get worse as the drinking theme will continue in Milburn’s output, reducing the once proudly diverse singer to being a hapless drunk on the sidewalk, begging passerbys for some money to buy hooch.

We’re not quite at that stage yet though, but there’s hardly any creativity lurking under the surface as he’s merely Thinking And Drinking in response to a break up he doesn’t quite understand.

However it sounds like he was doing too much of the latter and not enough of the former when it comes to putting the song together. The entire thing is built around the repetitive delivery of the title, switching up the order of the words and then later replacing them with new verbs such as “walking” and “talking” without altering the melodic or rhythmic pattern.

In other words he’s filling space without offering anything new. It’s intentionally wasting our time because nobody bothered to come up with an actual song here. At best you’d say this is the rough outline of a plot, not a polished script. While he does offer a little more character insight after the instrumental break, it’s still just scraping the surface rather than digging deeper to examine the actual feelings or circumstances behind his state of mind.

Where this becomes a little easier to swallow – not that we want to encourage this kind of elbow bending – is in the arrangement wherein Maxwell Davis lets Milburn’s piano provide the slowly rolling groove that goes down easy and then buttresses that Billie Smith’s languid saxophone on the edges that sort of numbs your senses enough not to raise too much of a fuss that what you’re getting here is devoid of any real effort.


I Lost My Mind So Many Ways
Sometimes the mere appearance of commercial interest in a song, however fleeting, will cause people to assume the contents must be more rewarding than they actually are.

Not that anyone is likely to think this is among Amos Milburn’s best work, but considering his lack of big records during this stretch some loyalists might view Thinking And Drinking as evidence that he still mattered.

But if this is what it takes to matter is it really worth it?

If not for that minor entry in Billboard would this record have any significance whatsoever in his catalog? Had it failed to chart altogether would anybody drag this out as an overlooked gem? Would it even be noticed otherwise?


In the past we’ve alluded to how Milburn’s combination of soulful voice, mesmerizing delivery and great arrangements could make almost anything he offered sound good, but this record puts that statement to the test and for once he doesn’t pass that test.

This is a throwaway song that is notable only because a few hardcore fans were curious enough to hope for the best. By evidence of how fast it disappeared from view, once they heard it even they were aware they didn’t get anything close to his best here.

Put the bottle down, Amos and get back to work.


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