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Atomic Baby: Amos Milburn [Recorded 1950]

A rollicking blues number by the Chicken Shack Boogie Man himself that contains the immortal lyric: "I love my baby, she makes me oh so blue. She keeps me so worried, that I call her U 92." Yes, it seems even blues musicians had to know their Periodic Table back in the 1950s. This tune, however frivolous, reinforces the theme that atomic energy (or women) left unchecked, could "blow up the joint" or "lead you onto the moon."

Amos Milburn, a popular juke box blues artist of the 1940s and 1950s and forefather to rock 'n' roll was born in Houston, Texas in 1927 and was self-taught from an early age on the piano. In 1942 15-year-old Milburn lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy and spent World War II in the Philippines, Bougainville and Guadalcanal. Upon his return to Texas, Milburn formed a group and played wherever he could. It was at San Antonio's Key Club one night that Lola Ann Cullum, a freelance talent scout, saw Milburn's act. Almost immediately, Cullum, a doctor's wife, began managing Milburn and brought him to Los Angeles where he signed with Leo Mesner's Aladdin label.

Milburn was a versatile blues musician who could perform slow ballads, but it was his alcoholic rave-ups and risqué tunes (Bad, Bad Whiskey, One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer, After Midnight) that solidified his reputation as an artist who could load juke boxes in black bars from coast to coast and this was what the Mesners were really after.

In 1948 Milburn achieved a number 1 hit on the R&B charts with Chicken Shack Boogie and he became billed as the 'Chicken Shack Boogie Man' backed by the Aladdin Chicken Shackers. 1949 and 1950 were Milburn's glory years with 'Billboard' naming him the "Top R&B artist" two years in a row and 'Downbeat' voting him 'Best Blues & Jazz star of 1949.'

In 1957 Milburn left Aladdin (after recording the pandering We Teenagers Know What We Want) and tried his luck on King and Motown, but rock 'n' roll had encroached upon the artist's territory. And while Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis all acknowledged Milburn as having been a strong influence on their styles, this did not stop the Boogie Man's career tumble.

Milburn became an alcoholic and, though he sobered up during his last years in Houston, the booze had taken its toll on his health with high blood pressure, strokes and epileptic seizures. Amos Milburn died in 1980 from complications from the amputation of his left leg.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
Atomic Baby: Amos Milburn [Recorded 1950]

I love my baby, she makes me oh so blue
I love my baby, she makes me oh so blue
She keeps me so worried, that I call her U 92

She's got a high potential and a low resistance point
She's got a high potential and a low resistance point
I have to be so careful, that gal might blow up the joint

Yeah, she heats my room, she lights my light
She starts my motor and it runs all night
She's my atomic baby, yeah, she's my atomic baby
She's my atomic baby and I have to handle her with care

They can build them small, they can build them large
But they can't build a motor that will stand a charge
With my atomic baby, she's my atomic baby
She's my atomic baby and I have to handle her with care

Yeah, she's a little bitty mama who needs a whole lot of room
She's a little bitty mama that needs a whole lot of room
She can ignite your rockets and lead you onto the moon

Amos Milburn [Recorded 1950]
Atomic Baby
(F. Hayward and M. Tucker)
Aladdin unissued
Capitol CDP 7243

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