Birthday: Moon Mullican

Aubrey "Moon" Mullican has never been given the proper credit for his pioneering efforts in the infancy of rock 'n' roll, but no one has challenged his title — "King of the Hillbilly Piano Players."

Born March 29, 1909, in Polk County, Texas, Mullican took over a pump organ that his religious parents had intended for church music, and he played the wild boogie-woogie style he learned from the juke joints in his poor community.

Conflict with his parents caused him to leave home at 16, and he perfected his honky-tonk piano style in the bars and brothels of Houston. After recording in the late '30s with the Texas Wanderers and the Blue Ridge Playboys, Mullican signed to the King label in 1946 to begin a solo career. Songs such as the rollicking "What's the Matter With the Mill" (RealAudio excerpt) would have an influence on Jerry Lee Lewis in the '50s.

Though Mullican embraced rock 'n' roll, his huge size and age may have been career obstacles, and he never received the acclaim he felt he deserved. He died Jan. 1, 1967, in Beaumont, Texas.

Other birthdays Wednesday: Rick Henderson, 47; Regina Leigh, 42; and Brady Seals, 31.

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