Welcome to Mellow's Log Cabin. This blog's purpose is to supply information on a diversity of American southern music - ranging from country, blues, old-time and folk to R&B, rock'n'roll and rockabilly. I regularly present my research results about artists, labels, shows and also give guest writers a chance to publish their texts here on occasion.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chuck Miller on Mercury

Chuck Miller - Boogie Blues (Mercury 70767X45), 1956

Chuck Miller, a today mostly forgotten pop singer and pianist of the 1940s and 1950s, recorded this piece of big band style rock'n'roll in 1955 for the Mercury label. He had two chart entries during the mid 1950s but "Boogie Blues" unfortunately was not one of them. This is his best rock'n'roll outing by far with a driving beat, a furious beginning and a solid performance by Miller.

Charles Nelson Miller was born on August 30, 1924, in rural Wellington, Kansas. By the 1940s, Miller was playing piano and singing in the clubs of Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Through his friend, saxophonist Big Dave Cavanaugh, he got to know Robert Douglass and formed the "Chuck Miller Trio" with him in the late 1940s. Cavanaugh became an A&R manager for Capitol Records in the early 1950s and secured his friend Miller a recording contract with the label in 1953. Back then, Miller's music was in the vein of pop stars like Dean Martin or Bing Crosby. Miller recorded a couple of songs for Capitol from 1953 up to 1954 with Cavanaugh's orchestra. With the recording of "Idaho Red" (originally cut by country singer Wade Ray), Miller's style became more dynamic and rock'n'roll oriented.

Though Miller's singles for Capitol sold good, none of them entered the charts, though. Therefore, he moved to Mercury Records in 1955, where he had his first (and only) big hit "The House of Blue Lights." It reached #9 on Billboard's Hot 100 and was originally a Freddy Slack hit in the 1940s. Mercury pitched Bobby Lord's rocker "Hawk-Eye" to Miller, which became his next single, followed by "Boogie Blues." The latter was a Gene Krupa original on Columbia from 1945 with Anita O'Day on vocals. Miller turned it into a hot rock'n'roll performance when recording it on November 13, 1955, at the Mercury Sound Studios in New York City. Backed by the haunting "Lookout Mountain" (waxed at the same session), the disc was released on January 1, 1956, but did not saw any chart action. An alternate version of "Boogie Blues" from an August 1955 session at the Universal Studios in Chicago, is still burried in the Mercury vaults and waits for its release to the public.

Miller continued to record uptempo songs like "Bright Red Convertible," "Cool It Baby!," "Baby Doll," "The Auctioneer" (his only other chart entry, #56 in December 1956), among others. None of his later singles became a hit and Mercury dropped Miller from its roster in 1958. By 1959, the Chuck Miller Trio disbanded and Miller moved to Anchorage, Alaska, in the 1960s, before settling down on the Hawaiian islands. There, he kept on performing for many years. Miller died on January 15, 2000.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

enorme canciĆ³n swing-billy-r&b !!!. gracias, un saludo. felipe.