Roy Milton (July 31, 1907 – September 18, 1983) was an American singer, drummer and bandleader who led one of the best early R&B/Jump Blues bands during the late 1940s and early '50s.
Milton's grandmother was a Chickasaw. He spent his early years on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma (his maternal grandmother was a Native American) before moving to Tulsa. He sang with Ernie Fields's territory band during the late '20s and began doubling on drums when the band's regular trapsman got arrested one fateful evening. In the mood to leave Fields in 1933, Milton wandered west to Los Angeles and formed the Solid Senders. He performed in local clubs and began recording in the 1940s .1945 was a big year for him — along with signing with Juke Box (soon to be renamed Specialty), the band filmed three soundies with singer June Richmond.
Roy Milton was in a perfect position to drive his outfit the Solid Senders just as hard or soft as he so desired. With his stellar sense of swing, Milton did just that; his steady backbeat on his 1946 single for Art Rupe's fledgling Juke Box imprint, "R.M. Blues," helped steer it to the uppermost reaches of the R&B charts (his assured vocal didn't hurt either). Its success helped establish Art Rupe’s company, which he shortly afterwards renamed Specialty Records.
"R.M. Blues" was such a huge seller that it established Specialty as a viable concern for the long haul. Rupe knew a good thing when he saw it, recording Milton early and often through 1953. He was rewarded with 19 Top Ten R&B hits by the Solid Senders, including "Milton's Boogie," "True Blues," "Hop, Skip and Jump," "Information Blues," "Oh Babe" (a torrid cover of Louis Prima's jivey jump), and "Best Wishes." Milton's resident boogie piano specialist, Camille Howard, also sang on several Milton platters, including the 1947 hit "Thrill Me," concurrently building a solo career on Specialty.
After amassing a voluminous catalog as one of Specialty's early bedrocks, Milton moved on to Dootone, King (there he cut the delectable instrumental "Succotash"), and Warwick (where he eked out a minor R&B hit in 1961, "Red Light") with notably less commercial success. Sadly, even though he helped pioneer the postwar R&B medium, rock & roll had rendered Milton an anachronism.
Nevertheless he continued to perform and resuming his recording career in the 1970s with albums for Kent Records and the French label Black & Blue. In the early 70s his tour with Johnny Otis and Orchestra as a last go around for the historic R & B caravans of the past (captured on record at the Monterey Jazz Festival) and the Barrel House Reunion (also with Otis) gave everyone a taste of what was his ground breaking presentation of the sound of modern Rhythm & Blues. Roy Milton was one of the true pioneers of the music and one of its very first nationally famous practitioners. Without him and his talented direction and his band, we would be in a far different place than we are today.
Roy Milton ("The Grandfather Of R&B") died in Los Angeles, California, on 18 September 1983, aged 76.
Here's a rare clip of Roy circa 1968