Amos Milburn and Boogie Piano Players

By Gary:

We have been having bad weather for the last two days; when that happens my mind wanders and I start looking into what makes things happen.  I looked into the origin of the song ‘Mary Lou’ (Young Jesse) and then I started thinking about where all of this music that I enjoy so much came from.  A lot of the songs that I thought were written in the Fifties, were actually written many years before. 

The words Rockin’ and Rollin’ can be traced back to 1939.  My Dad (who I loved and respected) loved Honky Tonk, Swing and Boogie Woogie.  So I started to look into Boogie Woogie Piano players; well let’s just stop right there, because there were so many it’s hard to pick one, but I did. 

Even though Alan Freed is given credit for coining the phrase ‘Rock and Roll’, sorry Alan but that just cannot be.  Those exact words where in songs long before 1952, when Alan was given credit for coining the phrase – but here, judge for yourself. 

I was going to do a large presentation on this, but YouTube has done such a great job. So do yourself a favour, if you wish to know more about the roots of Rock and Roll, watch and listen to this.


Please look at the list and the years and I really hope that you enjoy this as much as I did…

I know that there are lots of great Boogie Piano Players, I just picked this one.  To find great Boogie Piano Players today, as difficult as it is to believe, Europe has some great ones.

I am always amazed at the fact that the country that really started all of this, the “United States” abandoned it far too early, but I guess that’s the business.

So let’s take a look at a pian0-playing R&B singer, who was born in 1927 and left us in 1980.  The song he wrote in 1947, ‘Down the Road A Piece’ I first heard by the Rolling Stones in 1964.  As usual, he was very talented, black, so he could not eat, stay, travel or pretty much do anything else because of the racism that existed then.  So when you read about him and listen too his music, don’t be shocked to say, I’ve heard those songs before, yep, we have.  It is very sad that these Giant’s of our music are forgotten and not remembered.  Well I guess that’s why Russ and I do this.

Amos Milburn
April 1, 1927 – January 3, 1980


If you wish to see where Fat’s got those licks and all of the rest of the greats, watch this video of
“Down the Road A Piece”/
Chicken Shack Boogie/
Bad Bad Whiskey, which probably ended his life/

Some of his Music:

1.  Down the Road A Piece/ 1947


2.  Chicken Shack Boogie/ 1948/ 1955 version


3.  Bewildered/ 1948


4.  One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer/ 1953


5.  I Want to Go Home / with Charles Brown/ 1959/1960


Great Boogie Piano Players “Today”

1.  From Switzerland “Silvan Zingg“/
2.  From Sweden/ Johan Blohm (from the Refreshments)
3.  From the Netherlands/ Chris Watson/
Chris Watson 'The Piano Killer

Amos Milburn (April 1, 1927 – January 3, 1980) was an American rhythm and blues singer, and pianist, popular in the 1940s and 1950s. He was born and died in Houston, Texas.

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 “Down the Road Apiece” (1946), an early jump 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. “Hold Me Baby” and “Chicken Shack Boogie” landed numbers eight and nine on Billboard’s survey of 1949’s R&B Bestsellers.

He became one of the leading performers associated with the Central Avenue music scene of Los Angeles’ Watts neighbourhood. 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, one of the best R&B songwriters around). 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.

Milburn contributed a fine offering to the R&B Yuletide canon in 1960 with his swinging “Christmas (Comes but Once a Year)” for King. Berry Gordy gave him a comeback forum in 1962, issuing an album on Motown predominated by remakes of his old hits that doesn’t deserve its extreme rarity today (even Little Stevie Wonder pitched in on harp for the sessions).

Nothing could jump start the pianist’s fading career by then, though.

Milburn’s final recording was on an album by Johnny Otis. This was in 1972 after he had been incapacitated by a stroke, so much so that Otis had to play the left-hand piano parts for his enfeebled old friend.  His second stroke led to the amputation of a leg because of circulatory problems. He died shortly after at the age of 52 from a third stroke.

He was a commercial success for eleven years and influenced many performers. Fats Domino consistently credited Milburn as an influence on his music. At least one person has noted the similarity between Milburn’s piano fills and Chuck Berry’s later guitar styling’s. Milburn was a musical pioneer, who made the transition from the swing and jump blues of the 1940s, to the R&B of the late 1940s and early 1950s, that evolved into today’s rock.



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