Today we celebrate, “The King of Hillbilly Piano Players,” Moon Mullican’s birthday. For without him many musicians we’ve known will never be introduced to the sound of rock ‘n’ roll and hillbilly boogie.
The “King of Hillbilly Piano Players”, Moon Mullican, was born on March 29, 1909. That was 109 years ago. Mullican was born as Aubrey Wilson Mullican at Texas. His family owned a small land which they shared with other farmers. He learned to play the piano, because his father bought a piano for them to practice hymns for the church. Mullican’s father was against him playing music outside of the church. Despite his father’s disapproval Mullican, at the age of 14, started playing the piano in local bars or cafes. He was also introduced with the sound of blues by a sharecropper known as Joe Jones.
It is uncertain how Mullican acquired his name, Moon. Some sources say that it was short for the word Moonshine. While others associated it with his living as a musician that plays piano at night. Whatever the reason may be the name stuck and thus he used it for the entirety of his career.
The Start of His Career
He started singing in a band called The Blue Ridge Playboys in the early 1940’s. After being with the band he decided to join another band, Texas Wanderers. He played the piano as part of the group. It was said that his talent as a pianist is breathtaking. Not only did he played the piano in Cliff Bruner’s band, Texas Wanderer, he was asked to play vocals too. He played the song “Truck Drivers Blues.”
The Showboys was a band formed by Mullican after working with other bands and musicians. The band usually performs in Texas and Louisiana. They were a big hit then. Mullican was the lead singer and pianist of the band. Most of the songs they played are country ballads and western swing. Their music was close to the sound of rock ‘n’ roll, but by then it wasn’t known yet.
Mullican’s Hit songs
Mullican played as a pianist in a lot of different bands but he also recorded some songs that were a hit back then. His hit songs under King Records were: “Jole Blon,” “Sweeter Than the Flower,” “Cherokee Boogie,” and “Hey Shah.” Other of his hit songs were: “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” and “Ragged But Right.”
His glory years as a musician didn’t last that long when there was a decline in the traditional country song to rock ‘n’ roll. Mullican cannot adjust his music style which is honky-tonk to the new country music style before.
Mullican suffered from a heart attack at the age of 59, in 1966. He died the next day, which was New Year’s Eve, January 1967. Written on his epitaph was his biggest hit song, “I’ll Sail the Ship Alone.” Moon Mullican “King of Hillbilly Piano Players,” has been a major influence on many famous country musicians, including that of Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis.