Upon returning to Houston he put together a band and played in clubs all over the city and the surrounding suburbs. His music so impressed local fan Lola Cullum that she allowed him to practice on her baby grand piano and helped him to record After Midnight. She then took the record and Milburn to Los Angeles, where she visited Eddie Mesner, president of Aladdin Records, in his hospital room and played the record for him. Mesner signed Milburn immediately.
Milburn began recording for Aladdin on September 12, 1946. In twelve years he recorded about 125 songs, most of them arranged by saxophonist Maxwell Davis. After Midnight sold more than 50,000 copies. In 1949 Milburn was Billboard's best-selling R&B artist. Davis, acting as sax soloist and producer, helped Milburn on seven of his greatest hits: Chicken Shack Boogie, In the Middle of the Night, Hold Me Baby, Bad Bad Whiskey, Good Good Whiskey, Vicious Vicious Vodka, Let's Have a Party, House Party (Tonight), Let Me Go Home, Whiskey, and One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer. These songs and others made it to the Top 10 of Billboard's charts in the early and mid-1950s.
Milburn's rocking, boogie-woogie piano style greatly influenced such younger stars as Fats Domino and Little Richard. Some of Milburn's songs, such as Let's Rock a While (1951) and Rock, Rock, Rock (1952), anticipated mid-1950s rock-and-roll. Milburn ended his association with Aladdin in 1954. He continued to perform, often with such greats as Charles Brown and Johnny Otis. He toured the country, playing nightclubs in various cities, including Los Angeles, Cleveland, New York City, Dallas, Cincinnati, and Washington. He also recorded for labels such as Ace, King, and Motown. However, he had achieved his greatest success by 1953. No stranger to alcohol, as his song titles suggest, Milburn was often ill. He suffered two strokes, lost a leg to amputation, and was an invalid for some time before his death in Houston on January 3, 1980. He was buried in Houston National Cemetery. He was honored with induction into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 2010.
29° 55.681, -095° 27.127
Houston National Cemetery