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4 Star 1528; SEPTEMBER 1950



Some artists are never destined to be stars, but are still more than good enough to be around for a long long time.

In a field where fame (if not fortune) is the usual measuring stick of greatness, the absence of hits tends to make longevity a rather bitter consolation prize to swallow. But considering that an artist with an enduring hit to their name often can’t get any recognition beyond that and grows frustrated with being asked to reprise their moment of glory for eternity, by contrast being able to sustain a career as a professional singer for decades without one song to fall back on is actually the greater achievement.

For those skeptical of such a claim, please address your inquiries to Mickey Champion.


They Can’t Thrill Me
Though the official records would state otherwise, Mildred Sallier was not long for this world.

For while she was born in 1925 and died in 2014, the majority of her life was spent as Mickey Champion, singer, songwriter and survivor.

Leaving her home state of Louisiana after high school to sing, she married her first husband, took his last name of Champion, and set out for Los Angeles which she made her musical home for more than a half century.

Working with, and then marrying, pre-rock bandleader Roy Milton gave her exposure, but it was her own abilities which drew notice, though unfortunately for her it first was the notice of the notoriously dishonest Bill McCall owner of 4 Star Records where she made her debut on record with He’s A Mean, Mean Man.

Whether due to contractual issues (Milton was signed to Specialty Records) or simply trying to keep their work somewhat separate from their personal relationship, it wasn’t Milton’s stellar crew which backed her in the studio, as they had at a live gig earlier in the summer which would see a later release of this same song in a more dynamic performance.

Instead she’s supported here by Happy Joe Lewis who frankly doesn’t sound all that happy to playing rock ‘n’ roll.

He Just Ain’t No Good
While Mickey’s not exactly going all-out on her vocals, she’s still far more engaged than Lewis’s bunch is, as they slog through this with little understanding of the requirements of the genre.

Oh, there’s a decent framework to He’s A Mean, Mean Man, don’t get me wrong. The underpinning riff that’s buttressed by some piano work is fine, while the horns are adding brief replies to Champion’s vocals, but there’s not any urgency in their playing and the more they try to match her as she ramps things up in a brief display of power, the more out of place they sound.

The sax solo that follows gives off the impression of an older man wheezing trying to keep up with his rambunctious grandkids until another horn, probably the grandmother, reins things in and keeps it in the slow lane.

Ironically on the flip side, which Champion has nothing to do with, Lewis takes a fairly humorous vocal turn on Party Line, which while hardly approaching rock ‘n’ roll, is at least a fairly lively and interesting attempt at sly humor with a subtle rhythm.

As for Champion on this side it’s clear she’s trying to break free and push this into more of a strutting tempo, but the band holds her back and she smartly doesn’t fight them on it to preserve the record’s cohesiveness. Unable to do more than simply bearing down on the lyrics – which are pretty decent as she is in love with a guy who isn’t that good – she’s more or less resigned to making herself look good by comparison while rolling her eyes at the stiffs she was saddled with, hoping the rock fan will sympathize with both of her plights – lyrical and musical.

Which of those they feel more pity about – her dead end relationship or her soon to be deceased band – is probably a toss-up.

Take Him I Am Through
Usually meeting a singer who will be a fairly regular presence on these pages for years to come is met with more enthusiasm than we’re showing here, but while we definitely admire what Mickey Champion is up to on this record, the combination of the subpar arrangement by a band unsuited to the work requirements, a vile record company and a lack of usable information beyond the basics leaves us at an uncharacteristic loss for words.

Still, you shouldn’t come away from He’s A Mean, Mean Man thinking that there’s nothing worth noting here, for often times it’s the sight of a singer having to navigate a mismatched partnership in the studio where you can really see their talent shine through even if the end result is nothing special.

If Champion had ceded to their control and let herself be dragged into the past, or if she’d fought them tooth and nail and wound up with a record that clashed at every turn, we’d criticize her decision making more than praise her vocal ability.

So here we can at least tell you that as a singer she makes the grade, even if as a record this one can’t help but fall considerably short through no fault of her own. Luckily for her she’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove we were right for not blaming her for the shortcomings shown here.


(Visit the Artist page of Mickey Champion for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)

Spontaneous Lunacy has reviewed other versions of this song you may be interested in:
Little Mickey Champion (February 1952)