Born Elbert Raymond McMillin, 6 August 1916, North Carolina
In the 1950s, 'Dutch' McMillin was Nashville's premier session saxophonist until the arrival of Boots Randolph in 1958. (Anyone with the nickname Dutch is all right with me.) But unlike Boots, McMillin never was a full-time musician and always kept his day job as an insurance agent, retiring as the head of the New England Life Insurance Agency.
Elbert Raymond McMillin was a graduate of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, where he had led the University band. Any thoughts of a musical career were temporarily thwarted by the outbreak of the Second World War. He served his time as a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps where he further developed his talents by taking up the clarinet. After his demob he turned professional and landed a gig with WSM Radio's "Waking Crew", where he attracted the attention of producer / studio owner Owen Bradley. At that time saxophonists were a rare breed in Nashville (the only other tenorists in town of any significance were Andrew Goodrich and Jack Gregory). Bradley would use 'Dutch' whenever the session required a sax. In 1955, McMillin had a Decca single release of his own (29392), "The Waltz You Saved For Me"/ "The One Rose", which was credited to "Eddie McMillan (!), His Singing Saxophone And Orchestra".
In the early fifties the need for a saxophone on those hardcore country records wasn't that big, but things changed drastically with the advent of rock n roll. McMillin's first R&R date was probably Buddy Holly's third Decca session, on November 15, 1956, when Buddy recorded a second version of "Rock Around With Ollie Vee", along with "Modern Don Juan" and "You Are My One Desire". For many years it was believed that Boots Randolph was the sax man on these recordings, but Boots never played a note in a Nashville studio until he moved from his native Paducah, Kentucky, to Nashville in the spring of 1958. Even the fine recent 2-CD compilation "Buddy Holly Gold" mentions Boots in its sessionography
McMillin was also a member of the Owen Bradley Quintet, along with Hank Garland, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman and Owen himself. This quintet issued several Decca singles, two of which hit the Billboard charts, "White Silver Sands" (1957, # 18) and "Big Guitar" (1958, # 48). By then 'Dutch' was getting calls from all the majors, especially Decca and RCA, but also MGM, Mercury, Capitol and Columbia. Records on which his sax can be heard include "Say Yeah" by Sammy Salvo (RCA 7097), "Sugar Doll" by Johnny Jay (Mercury 71232), "Sweet And Innocent" by Roy Orbison (RCA 7381), "Meet Me In the Alley Sally" and "Flip Out" by Billy Brown (Columbia 41100, 41297) and "Rock the Bop" by Brenda Lee (Decca 30535 ; Richard Weize, in his Bear Family discography, erroneously credits Boots Randolph as the sax player on this track). But perhaps McMillin's greatest contributions to the Big Beat were recorded with Esquerita. He played on all of Esquerita's Capitol sessions from 1958, which resulted in 28 tracks of the wildest and most chaotic rock and roll ever released. It's amazing how well Dutch - in his forties already and from a completely different musical background - adapts to the atmosphere of excitement, spontaneity and general craziness. Listen to him wail on tracks like "Hole In My Heart" and "Rockin' the Joint". Now that is unadulterated rock n roll!
Dutch also recorded with Webb Pierce, Mitchell Torok, Jimmy Donley, Chet Atkins, Hank Snow, Bobby Bare, Marty Robbins, Hank Locklin, the Collins Kids and many others. As the 1950s closed, 'Dutch' settled in as the regular sax player in Grady Martin's Slew Foot Five, whilst he shifted his studio stylings toward the growing easy-listening market, working for acts like Perry Como, Al Hirt and fellow clarinettist Pete Fountain. In the mid-70s he became an integral part of "Nashville", a conglomerate of local sessioneers including Tommy Allsup and Bill Justis. Inspired by the success of the similarly-minded Area Code 615, they embarked upon several sides for Epic.
In spite of a long and successful career, Dutch McMillin never became a household name. Some people still believe that E.R. McMillin was a pseudonym for Boots Randolph...
Acknowledgements : Stuart Colman's obituary in NDT 151 (October 1995) was the main source of information for this piece. Additional info also by Stuart, who interviewed Dutch's widow in 1995.
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