09 August 2010

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 121]

Seven Nights To Rock
b/w "Honolulu Rock-A-Roll-A"
Moon Mullican with Boyd Bennett and His Rockets
Written by Buck Trail, Louis Innis & Henry Glover
Produced by Syd Nathan & Henry Glover
King Records
Released March 1956

In the second of our four jukebox worthy singles written by pioneering music executive Henry Glover, we visit the brand new landscape of rock and roll, circa 1956. The charts are filled with songs like James Brown's "Please, Please, Please," Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin'" and Fats Domino's "I'm In Love Again."

And into this breach attempts to step a brazen, good timin' East Texan, Aubrey "Moon" Mullican. He first learned the guitar from a local sharecropper but then took up the pump organ and the piano (later famously remarking that he chose the latter because "my beer kept sliding off my fiddle"). By the time he was in his 20s, Mullican was playing in bands that were riding the wave of the Western Swing craze.

In 1946, Syd Nathan of King Records in Cincinnati signed Mullican to a long-term contract. An originator of the "two finger style" of piano playing, his songs were a mix of maudlin country ballads and blues and boogie tunes that anticipated the advent of rock and roll.

Increased sales of records on King allowed Moon Mullican to tour outside Texas. At a concert in 1949 he became friends with Hank Williams, which led to a regular gig on the Grand Ole Opry. A year later Moon had his first million selling song, "I'll Sail My Ship Alone." And there is evidence that he is the uncredited co-writer of the huge Hank hit "Jambalaya" (he received 50% royalties on the song). In his biography of Hank Williams, author Colin Escott unearths an interview in Country Song Roundup Magazine in which the immortal star mentions Moon as one of his personal favorites.

But while critics said that Mullican could sing honky tonk and sentimental tunes as well as anyone of the period, the performer wanted to "make the bottles bounce on the tables" with an array of blues and boogie tunes. He left the Opry and lit out on the road.

One of the most enduring cuts of Mullican's career would be 1956's "Seven Nights To Rock." Billboard described it at the time as "the guy spreads himself thin as he rocks with 7 different chicks in seven nights. A swinging bit of commercial wax that could connect at the juke level."

Unfortunately, it didn't. Why? Elvis and Little Richard, probably. Moon Mullican was a 245 pound bald man who was not going to break into that realm. The era of Bill Haley was quickly over, and Mullican was a casualty.

Moon continued to perform into the 1960s, basing himself out of Texas. He died on New Year's Day, 1967. Rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis consistently lists Mullican as one of his two main influences, along with Hank Williams. And artists like Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen (don't miss The E Streeters version!) regularly cover "Seven Nights To Rock" to make sure new generations never forget that some songs -- even those 55 years old -- always rock.

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