Monday, 4 April 2011

Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby / Bow Wow! - Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chicken-Shackers (Aladdin 3037)







There's good news for shellac fans: El Enmascarado has ripped more 78 rpm discs and among the latest offerings is this classic from Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chicken-Shackers. Recorded in Los Angeles on the 1st of October, 1949, "Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby" reached number 3 in the R&B chart in the weeks leading up to Christmas.


1949 was a peak year in the career of Amos Milburn. He had a string of big R&B hits and according to Billboard he was the top selling rhythm and blues artist of the year. He was also voted "Best Blues and Jazz Star of 1949" in Downbeat magazine. In the wake of his biggest hit "Chicken Shack Boogie," his road band was named the Aladdin Chicken-Shackers. Up until July 1949 Amos recorded with small studio groups led by Maxwell Davis. At the recording session of July 13th, a Davis-led studio combo was billed as the Aladdin Chicken-Shackers on "Roomin' House Boogie" and "Walkin' Blues."

At the next recording session on October 1st, 1949, Amos was backed by the real Chicken-Shackers, his road band, which featured a much heavier sax sound thanks to two tenor saxes and a baritone sax. Five sides were recorded: "Bow Wow," and "Let's Make Christmas Merry Baby," both released on Aladdin 3037, "Drifting Blues," and "Real Pretty Mama," both released on Aladdin 3038 and "Untitled Boogie," which remained unreleased until Capitol issued the 3 CD set "Blues, Barrelhouse and Boogie Woogie" in 1996.

The Aladdin Chicken-Shackers on this session were: Don Wilkerson and Willie Smith (tenor saxes), Willie Simpson, Jr. (baritone sax), Amos Milburn (piano, vocal), Johnny Brown (guitar), Harper Cosby (bass) and Calvin Vaughan (drums).

Amos recorded with this line-up until April 1951, occasionally alternating with Maxwell Davis led studio groups. "Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby" is a fine piece of festive filth or seasonal sleaze which is rooted in "Merry Christmas Baby" - a 1947 hit for Charles Brown with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. "Bow Wow" is a good instrumental workout, although one cannot help but feel that it is a bit of "filler" for the B Side of the intended Christmas hit.

Billboard ad
With thanks to El Enmascarado for his heroic efforts in creating a listenable rip from "Let's Make Christmas Merry, Baby" which was in very poor condition with scratches, a crack and a chewed up spindle hole.

Sources: liner notes by Mark Humphrey from the Capitol 3CD set "Blues, Barrelhouse and Boogie Woogie: The Best Of Amos Milburn, 1946-1955", and Billboard Magazine which is available free via Google Books.

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