BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 

The most well-rounded talent of rock’s first half dozen years, Amos Milburn combined a soulful voice with exceptional songwriting skills and impressive chops on the piano to become one of the brightest stars in the early rock universe.

The Texas born Milburn showed an early inclination towards rocking with a handful of cuts as a teenager which pre-dated rock ‘n’ roll’s official birth but gave notice there was a new style poised to emerge. Signed to Aladdin Records in Los Angeles he was paired with A&R man Maxwell Davis and the two forged an innate working relationship the equal of any artist and producer in rock history, their abilities meshing perfectly with Davis’s saxophone work the perfect compliment to Milburn’s style.

Milburn singlehandedly carried Aladdin’s rock reputation for years, scoring 19 hits, including four #1’s over his time with the company. His catalog ran the gamut from scorching party anthems to mournful laments and sublime songs of seduction making each varied approach seem completely natural and entirely effortless.

In an ill-advised effort to capitalize on his early 50’s successes on songs with a drinking theme Aladdin began recycling lyrical ideas on a succession of releases to diminishing acclaim, thereby turning one of the most versatile artists of the era into a something of one-note performer just as rock was crossing over as a whole to an audience less receptive to that topic, crippling his ability to continue his run at the top.

Upon leaving the label Milburn recorded – without the same success – for a variety of big name labels from Imperial to Motown, but despite some stellar performances his days as a hit-maker were over by the late 1950’s.

After suffering a series of strokes in the 1970’s the World War Two vet lived on military benefits, losing a leg along the way, before passing away January 3, 1980 at the age of 52, silencing one of the top hundred rock artists ever.
 
 
AMOS MILBURN DISCOGRAPHY (Reviews To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 
BLUES AT SUNDOWN
(Aladdin 201; October, 1947)
The introduction of soulfulness into rock… served up with a laconic delivery perfect for ballads and mournful laments. (6)

MY LOVE IS LIMITED
(Aladdin 201; October, 1947)
A record lurking in the shadows, a song for walking home long past midnight with a bit of a buzz on, a smile on your face and a half-focused faraway dreamy look in your eyes. (7)

SAD AND BLUE
(Aladdin 202; November, 1947)
Arguably nobody in rock’s formative years had better vocal control than Amos Milburn, his ballad singing in particular was an ongoing lesson in the use of dynamics, making this gripping stuff. (6)

BYE BYE BOOGIE
(Aladdin 206; January, 1948)
Milburn seems as if he were shot out of a canon after drinking a fifth of nitroglycerin, letting rip and trusting you’ll hang on for the ride in one of his most exhilarating performances. (8)

I STILL LOVE YOU
(Aladdin 211; May, 1948)
Milburn drags out each line to their absolute breaking point, stretching out the words as if in a drug-induced haze, yet conveying the deepest feelings in the WAY he delivers them… the effect is mesmerizing. (7)

POOL PLAYING BLUES
(Aladdin 211; May, 1948)
A song that doesn’t have much to with the game of billiards, but rather how Amos Milburn uses the game’s particulars as substitutes for various forms of sexual hanky panky which at least makes it worth taking for a spin. (5)

CHICKEN SHACK BOOGIE
(Aladdin 3014; October, 1948)
A perfect representation of all rock ‘n’ roll music was to this stage = an addicting groove, alluring lyrics promising sin and depravity and Milburn and Maxwell Davis acting as degenerate pied pipers leading the masses to the place “where all the bad cats meet”. ★ 10 ★

IT TOOK A LONG, LONG TIME
(Aladdin 3014; October, 1948)
Solid, if somewhat redundant stylistically from earlier efforts, but when each component is so well-crafted it’s hard to complain… while it’s hardly going to set the world on fire nobody did this type of performance better. (7)

BEWILDERED
(Aladdin 3018; December, 1948)
Milburn’s career defining ballad and an enduring hit that rendered all competing versions over the years all but irrelevant. A record that not only lives up to its exalted reputation but far surpasses it. Perfect in every conceivable way. ★ 10 ★

A&M BLUES
(Aladdin 3018; December, 1948)
Maybe not much more than an improvised throwaway but with Milburn’s talents that’s still well worth hearing, as the storyline is timely and tight while the musical backing has you almost wishing they cut it as an instrumental. (6)

JITTERBUG PARADE (a/k/a – JITTERBUG FASHION PARADE)
(Aladdin 3023; April, 1949)
Ill-advised retread of Chicken Shack Boogie may muscle up the arrangement enough to make it moderately pleasing but its existence is completely unnecessary, especially for someone who’s not lacking for popularity or material. (6)

HOLD ME BABY
(Aladdin 3023; April, 1949)
A year and a half old recording pulled out of mothballs to serve as the B-side wound up being a huge hit (#2) in its own right thanks to Milburn’s usual display of vocal artistry and scorching sax work from Maxwell Davis that combined to make this sound completely up to date. (7)

IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
(Aladdin 3026; June, 1949)
Another masterful record highlighted by deep emotions lurking under the storyline, Milburn’s sublime vocals and the perfect support of Maxwell Davis, Gene Phillips and the production that frames it all so well. (7)

POT LUCK BOOGIE
(Aladdin 3026; June, 1949)
An instrumental featuring the byplay of Milburn and Maxwell Davis that was pulled off the shelf after almost two years may be just serviceable B-side filler but it shows that all involved had the pulse of the rock style from the very beginning. (5)

ROOMIN’ HOUSE BOOGIE
(Aladdin 3032; August, 1949)
Another retread of a certain party at a Chicken Shack but this one not only was nearly as big of a hit it was also a pretty jumping bash all things considered… nothing new about it, but a good time was had by all so it’s kind of hard to complain. (7)

EMPTY ARMS BLUES
(Aladdin 3032; August, 1949)
A two year old track pulled from the vaults scored Milburn yet another hit, this one a song that acted as a prototype of many of his mid-tempo sides which vacillated between two extremes musically and vocally, but effectively bridged the gap between the dueling perspectives. (6)