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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Moon Mullican born 29 March 1909

Aubrey Wilson Mullican (March 29, 1909 – January 1, 1967),
known as Moon Mullican, and "King of the Hillbilly Piano Players", was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and pianist. However, he also sang and played jazz, rock 'n' roll, and the blues. He was associated with the hillbilly boogie style which greatly influenced rockabilly. Jerry Lee Lewis cited him as a major influence on his own singing and piano playing.
Mullican was raised on a farm that was manned by black workers. One sharecropper, Joe Jones, taught Mullican how to play blues guitar. His father bought an old pump organ so that the family could practise hymn-singing, but Aubrey preferred to pound out boogie-woogie and the blues. When Mullican was 14 years old, he went into a cafe in nearby Lufkin and sat at the piano; he came out two hours later with $40 in tips. When aged 16, and after an argument with his father, he moved to Houston and started playing the piano in brothels and honky tonks. He would work all night and sleep all day, hence his nickname ‘Moon’.
In the late 30s Mullican made his first recordings for Decca Records as part of Cliff Bruner’s Texas Wanderers, taking the lead vocal for ‘Truck Driver’s Blues’, arguably the first trucking song. He also recorded as part of Leon Selph’s Blue Ridge Playboys. He helped musician Jimmie Davis became the State Governor of Louisiana and later joined his staff.
In 1944 he invested his savings in 10 large juke-boxes but they were confiscated by the authorities because he refused to pay the appropriate tax. In 1946 he was signed by Sydney Nathan to the new King label and ‘New Pretty Blonde’, a parody in pigeon French of ‘Jole Blon’, became a million-seller. He won another gold disc with ‘I’ll Sail My Ship Alone’, and also found success with a tribute to mothers, ‘Sweeter Than The Flowers’, the double-sided ‘Mona Lisa’/‘Goodnight Irene’ and ‘Cherokee Boogie’, which was one of a succession of boogie records.

In 1949 he wrote ‘Jambalaya’ with Hank Williams, although he was not given a credit. This is probably unjust because the style of the song - and the subject matter of food! - were more in keeping with Mullican’s other work than Williams’. In the mid-50s, Mullican delighted in the advent of rock ‘n’ roll as he said he had been doing that all along. Backed by the hit-making Boyd Bennett And His Rockets, he recorded ‘Seven Nights To Rock’. However, he was too portly and bald for teenage record buyers.
Jerry Lee Lewis acknowledges Mullican as a major influence - in particular, Mullican’s playing of the melody with just two fingers on his right hand - and has recorded ‘I’ll Sail My Ship Alone’. He recorded for Coral Records and Starday but alcohol and too much jambalaya got the better of him. When asked why he chose the piano, Mullican replied, ‘Because the beer kept sliding off my fiddle.’
In 1962, the 19-stone Mullican collapsed on stage in Kansas City. He stopped drinking and returned to performing, making an album for Kapp, The Moon Mullican Showcase, produced by Jack Clement. He recorded the novelty number ‘I Ain’t No Beatle (But I Want To Hold Your Hand)’ for Spar. On New Year’s Eve 1966, he resolved to cut down on pork chops but he suffered a heart attack in Beaumont, Texas, and died early in the morning on January 1, 1967.. Governor Jimmie Davis sang at his funeral.

 In 1976, he was posthumously inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His influence is felt in the outlaw movement, rockabilly and country blues to this day and - along with Jerry Lee Lewis - has shown that the guitar players do not have it all to themselves in country music. There have been many posthumous compilations of his music, on various labels including Ace and Bear Family.
(Info mainly from The Encyclopedia of Popular Music) 


boppinbob said...

I have a 2cd set by Proper Records "I'll Sail My Ship Alone".
Will post if interested.

Slabtown said...

Bob, yes, please post the two-disc set of Moon Mullican.

boppinbob said...

Here’s CD1:

Here’s CD2: