AUSTIN DAZE: Right off the bat, we want to know why Blue Monday became Blue Tuesday.
MALFORD MILLIGAN: Mark Proct actually made that decision when he was buying talent and booking the club. He had a country act that he wanted to bring in on Mondays. He also thought it would bring in more names and more people–more than anything else. So that’s why it became Blue Tuesday – out of necessity. As you can tell, Blue Monday used to have a lot less people. On Blue Tuesday, it seems like we have a lot more people. So it’s good for the club, it’s good for the band – the whole deal.
AD: How did you get your start in music and when did you know it was going to be your career?
MM: That’s a good question. I got my start in music by playing with a little band called The Coz.
When did I know it was going to become a career? I’m a Buddhist, so when I started chanting about it becoming a career. Even then, I couldn’t believe I was doing it. Because I grew up chopping cotton–9 to 5 or 8 to 11–you know, just normal day things. And then also, I went to UT. So I really didn’t know; I had to really make a determination that this was going to be my career. And I was frightened; I was scared. Nobody in my family ever did this for a living. Nobody in my family sings for a living. We’re either contract workers or working in the field–we did stuff like that. So it’s amazing that I’m still doing it. It really is.
AD: So how did you get hooked up with Clifford Antone?
MM: Well what happened was, John McVey brought me into the club to do some singing with the Monday night band which was called the Big &Tall Band back then and he was in it–great bass player. I got to know Clifford mainly through John and hanging out with Derek O’Brien and all these guys who were just incredible musicians. John was the second guy to bring me in to do some singing. The first guy was Reese Wynans. He was playing in the Monday night band and he brought me in. So after that I just kind of became a staple. Because the band was so good it would just teach me stuff about the blues and R&B that I never knew before. Singing with quality musicians was just amazing. That’s how I met Clifford.
AD: So you’ve played with just about everyone. What musical experience stands out for you?
MM: Well a few. The Double Trouble thing we did – that was magical. The night that we did those gigs for Austin City Limits and then also the gigs at the Music Hall–those gigs really stand out for me. Other gigs that stand out for me: the night that Storyville packed this place (Antone’s) and I couldn’t believe it that there were lines around the block. I was like, “Who am I?” I mean these guys were used to this but I couldn’t believe it, I was levitating. Playing with James Cotton–Oh man. There are so many to be honest with you that stand out. There are a lot of gigs that I played. Even Eddie Clearwater playing a solo. We were playing for Fender out off the coast of California and we go do the little Fender thing and he’s part of the deal and I’m giving him a solo and I’m like, “Yeah! This is rocking!”
AD: Tell us about the Malford Milligan Band.
MM: The Malford Milligan Band has been going for about 4 years and is full of friends of mine. It’s a nice little band and I enjoy doing it but I’m probably going to wind it down. Storyville is putting out another record so I want to go tour that as much as possible. We’re putting something together–this power field; it’s going to be amazing; it’s going to be really cool. And plus I want to do some more gigs with The Boneshakers. So doing these kinds of gigs allows me to tour around the world and go around the country the way I want to go around. My band just wasn’t going to do that. And I love my band, but my name alone just isn’t going to be able to do that.
AD: How long have you been in Austin?
MM: Since 1981.
AD: You’ve seen some changes in this town. What has been the best and the worst change in Austin for you?
MM: That’s a good question. The best change is recognizing the music scene and trying to help musicians out. The worst change has been the heightened rent and property values because one of the things that made Austin so appealing to musicians is that it was cheap to live here. So the higher cost of living is what is worse.
AD: What do you think of the Storyville reunion? Do you think it will go anywhere?
MM: You know, I don’t know. We are just taking it one step at a time. We call it Storyville phase 1. I’m excited about it; I love playing with them. I think we will sell out Antone’s and we are already getting offers around the state. So regionally, I think it will do well. And regionally we always did well. I’m just looking forward to playing the music and playing the songs that I helped to write.
AD: What is special about an Austin audience?
MM: That they’re an Austin audience. People can come out every night and love to see you play. And when they come out en masse to see Storyville, it’s pretty special. It’s my home. I’ve played in front of a lot of folks but Austin audiences are really appreciative; they really love music. It’s hard for people to get out in my generation because they have kids. Earlier, in the 70’s and 80’s when they didn’t have children and had an expendable income, they could come out and see bands. It’s hard for people my age to do that now. So when they make that extra special effort to do that, I just want to give it to them. And that’s with any audience. We don’t have a full house one night, I don’t care–they are going to get what I got. I’m going to bring it to them. It’s not their job to give it to me it’s my job to give it to them; to bring it on stage with me. But an Austin audience, that’s my home.
AD: What can this town do to better the lives of music makers?
MM: Continue with what it is doing: medical care; supporting the clubs. I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t make money in Austin. I have to go out of town to make money. But the thing that Austin does when it has these clubs is it trains musicians; it teaches people their craft. It is a great place to be from; it’s a great place to learn. So keep going and doing it.
AD: What wisdom would you offer someone that is new to the music business?
MM: Don’t look for the big break. Look for the little bitty ones. It’s not the big break; it’s the little breaks that you get.