Monday, August 15, 2005:

Little Milton

Little Milton with guitar
Little Milton -- Cross My Heart
Little Milton -- I Feel So Bad
Little Milton -- Grits Ain't Groceries
Little Milton died August 4th, after having a stroke and going into a coma. I've been trying to write a post since then, but the problem was paring down the song selection. Getting from 43 to a dozen was fairly easy; going from there to six was more of a challenge; getting it down to two or three.... He had an impressive body of work to choose from: R&B, blues, jazz, soul, doo wop, 50s pop, all with a number of different themes and approaches to them. Much of his work has to do with relationships--like most of any music with lyrics, I suppose--and he's had a number of choice songs about faithfulness or infidelity, about giving up on a relationship or holding out hope.

"Cross My Heart" is a bit of doo wop, a Johnny Ace cover complete with sax and vibes; it's a mellow love song wearing its heart on its sleeve.

"I Feel So Bad" is a reworking of a Chuck Willis tune; it's got a solid groove propelling it; Milton's guitar work is spot-on, reminiscent a bit of B.B. King, but in a good way; the lyrics are about a man feeling indecisive and aimless after his woman leaves him.

"Grits Ain't Groceries" is a blistering track boasting about all that the narrator would do to prove his love--use a toothpick to dig a ten-foot ditch, fight lions with a switch, etc.

If I don't love you, babe:

( ) Grits ain't groceries
( ) Eggs ain't poultry
( ) Mona Lisa was a man
(•) All of the above

"Grits Ain't Groceries" is originally by Little Willie John, who has a name that time hasn't treated well. (He also had a short career to match his short stature and short temper--he died in prison, of pneumonia, a few years after stabbing someone in a fight).

Don't take these tracks to be representative of Little Milton's work, because the sample's far too small. :-) If you like these and think you might like to hear more, then you're probably right. I have both Anthology 1953-1961 and The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection, and they're both varied and accomplished, solid work. There's no song overlap between them, incidentally.
[Chess 50th Anniversary Collection @]
[Chess 50th Anniversary Collection @]

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