Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Famous Amos

My traveling variety show managed to get booted from Canada due to some illicit activity on the part of a band mate who shall not be named (Ehem).

I don't quite know what's worse, driving 600 miles in a van with these assholes for nothing, or, upon getting pinched, having to turn around and drive 600 miles in the other direction.

The only saving grace would be Arby's foothold on the east coast (The Arby-Q is back!!!); that, and the bottle of Basil Hayden's Bourbon in Montana's backpack. And it's in the spirit of that very same penacia that I give you a sampling of the alcoholic works of Amos Milburn.

The only real way to dig this R & B junk is on 78rpm, a risky proposition if you are anything like me and have a bad habit of stepping on, sitting on, or else Atom-smashing the shit out of 'Unbreakable' discs.

I managed to scam these, along w/ a decent pile of other R & B platters in a chicken coop in Lancaster PA many moons back. While I made it out unscathed and heavy in the wallet, it just about broke my heart to see what discs lay pulverized at the bottom of that packing crate ('Passing By Blues' anyone?). But getting back to Mr. Milburn:

"Born in Houston, one of thirteen children, by the age of five Milburn was playing tunes on the piano. He enlisted in the United States Navy when he was fifteen and earned thirteen battle stars in the Philippines, before returning to Houston and organizing a sixteen-piece band playing in Houston clubs, and mixing with the Houston jazz and blues scene. He was a polished pianist and performer and in 1946 attracted the attention of an enterprising woman who arranged a recording session with Aladdin Records in Los Angeles. Milburn's relationship with Aladdin lasted eight years during which he cut over seventy-five sides. His cover of "Down the Road a Piece" (1946), a blues with a rocking Texas boogie beat that bordered on rock, was ahead of its time. However, none caught on until 1949 when seven of his singles got the attention of the R&B audience.

He became one of the leading performers associated with the Central Avenue music scene of Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood. Among his best known songs was "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer". In 1950 Milburn's "Bad, Bad, Whiskey" reached the top of the R&B charts and began a string of drinking songs (none written by Milburn, but several penned by Rudy Toombs). However, there is no evidence that Milburn had a drinking problem.

Milburn continued his successful drinking songs through 1952 {"Thinking and Drinking", "Trouble in Mind"} and was by now touring the country playing clubs. While touring the Midwest that summer, he announced that he would disband his combo and continue as a solo act and that fall he joined Charles Brown for a Southern concert tour. For the next few years his tours were made up of strings of one nighters. After three years of solo performing he returned to Houston in 1956 to reform his band. In 1957 Milburn's releases on Aladdin Records did not sell well, and the record label, having its own problems, went out of business. He tried to regain commercial success with a few more releases on Ace Records but his time had passed. Radio airplay was becoming focused on the teenage market."

Be it 'Good, Good Whiskey' or 'Bad, Bad Whiskey', the fact of the matter is you got a lot of whiskey to down. I suggest you get started, and remember, when a customs agent gives you the business, lie like a rug. Cheers!

Bad, Bad Whiskey - Amos Milburn

One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer - Amos Milburn


Devil Dick said...

i had this 78 once....

i think it broke whilst drinkin' spirits....

The RedBoy said...

I personally can't think of a more fitting tribute to ole' Amos.

J. said...

That Basil Hayden's pretty damn good.

The RedBoy said...

No lie brother!