Johnny Nicholas

Moon And The Stars: A Tribute to Moon Mullican

Aubrey “Moon” Mullican (1909-1967) was “King of the Hillbilly Piano Players.” Playing and singing honky-tonk, Western swing, and boogie-woogie in the 1940s and ’50s, he influenced Jerry Lee Lewis and, later, Asleep At The Wheel.

Multi-instrumentalist Johnny Nicholas served time in the Wheel and worked with Walter Horton, Snooky Prior, Johnny Shines, and Ronnie Earl. His co-production of two volumes honoring Mullican stands apart from excellent solo albums in that he enlisted a who’s who of roots music greats. Main pianist Floyd Domino is supplanted on some cuts by Nicholas, Marcia Ball, Linda Gail Lewis, Emily Gimble, and Earl Poole Ball. In addition to Johnny’s vocals, Peter Rowan steps up, as do fiddler Katie Shore, Augie Meyers, and Kelli Jones. Accordionist Steve Riley gives “Seven Nights To Rock” a Cajun twist, while Max Baca and nephew Josh (on bajo sexto and accordion, respectively) offer a spirited “Moonshine Polka.”

It’s piano-centric, but the guitar gets its due thanks to Austin mainstay “Scrappy Judd” Newcomb and Rusty Blake (who doubles on steel). Nicholas provides lowdown six-string to “I’ll Sail My Ship Alone,” and Joel Savoy channels Chuck Berry on “Seven Nights.” Get both volumes.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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