1 of 1
Millage GilbertMillage Gilbert
Millage Gilbert’s 75th birthday blues tour will kick off in May, and includes a stop May 11 at Nefertiti Hall in Kansas City, Kan.
Born in Jackson, Miss., on May 24, 1938, Gilbert was from a family of blues players.
Gilbert, who performs in New York, Europe and Mississippi, was the “king” of the 2004 Kansas City, Kan., Blues Festival.
“My father and uncles played the blues around the house and for social occasions. I can remember listening to them being entertained when I was just a baby sitting at their feet. They inspired me to learn the guitar. My dad went to New Orleans many times playing the blues,”
Millage recalled. In Jackson, Millage says black musicians stayed at the Summers Hotel.
“I used to go to the Subway Lounge, Stevens Rose Room, Three Way Inn, and the Country Shack Inn to see John Lee Hooker, Little Milton, Howlin Wolf, BB King, and Albert King. I saw Son House and Fred McDowell play acoustic guitar in Mississippi. In 2002 at the Blue Room I worked with Honeyboy Edwards. He played acoustic and my band played electric. That was a thrill for me. That took me back.”
“Elmore James used to come by the house and ask my mother if I could go with him when I was a teenager. When I was 17, Elmore had me and my brother Marion playing guitar in his band. I didn’t go out of my way asking lots of questions when I saw these musicians. It took me a while to realize how great they were. I was lucky to have come up through the blues at that time.”
In 1959, Millage played with King Mose and Sammy Myers. “We played for white frat parties in Oxford at Ole Miss. I started singing in 1960 just before I moved to Kansas City in 1962. My wife told me we were moving to Kansas City and that was it.” Starting in 1963, Millage played at George Harrison’s club, The Last Round Up, at 12th and Vine with Little Hatch for 10 years. Good luck finding their bar recording that was issued in 1972 on this obscure LP from M & M Records of Germany.
“I was also working with Cleanhead Vinson that first year in Kansas City. King Alex played bass off and on for me through the years. I worked with Guitar Red and Sonny Kenner. I played with George Jackson at the Cotton Club in the bottoms on the Kansas side. Later on, William Wells played with us before he left for LA.”
Millage followed George Harrison to 59th and Prospect in the 1970s when he opened George’s Lounge. “I was inspired again when I saw Albert King in the movie Soul to Soul at the theatre. Albert was playing I’ll Play the Blues for You. The way he played the blues I can’t forget the feeling it gave me.”
Millage Gilbert has played at many out of business blues clubs in the Kansas City area, places like Blues Alley, Grand Emporium, and the Club Paradox.
- from Dawayne Gilley