Grits Ain’t Groceries by Little Milton
Grits Ain’t Groceries
Performed by Little Milton and written by Titus Turner. You can hear the original recording here. Click here for a live version by Jimmy Hall with the Allman Brothers. Click here for a live version by Wet Willie recorded at the Bottom Line in 1977. YOu can buy a dowload here.
Sometimes everything comes together on a perfect record and that happened for Little Milton in 1969 with “Grits Ain’t Groceries. “ A song that professes love of outlandish proportions, if a man sung this for you, you would swoon indeed.
Shimmering guitar, hard-punching horns, thumping bass, perfectly paced drums and heartfelt singing mix to create as good an R & B record as you can find. The song combines a near Shakespearean chorus with swaggering and braggadocio verses that match incredible claims with a voice ready to back them up. Do not take Little Milton lightly.
The song opens quickly with a plaintive cry, “if I don’t love you baby,” answered by a thundering horn section and the rest of the chorus:
If I don’t love you baby
Grits ain’t grocery,
Eggs ain’t poultry,
And Mona Lisa was a man
Hercules had his labors, but they’re nothing compared to what Little Milton will do for his woman:
And run all through the jungle fighting lions with a switch
Because you know I love you baby
Who wouldn’t love a man willing to do so much for you? Don’t we all want a lover willing to move heaven and earth to demonstrate love? Digging that ditch with a toothpick is so much cooler.
In the next verse, Little Milton sings about the search for his baby, but in the heroic, outsized themes of the song, we don’t hear a vague description. Instead, he’s calling out, shouting his love:
All around the world I’ve got blisters on my feet
I’m trying to find my baby and bring her home with me
You better run into me baby and be convinced
If you don’t run it to me right now woman
You ain’t got no sense
Because you know I love you baby
This is not a weak voice, a simpering man. He’s turning the world upside down and baby, you are a fool if you don’t come running. Not until the third and final verse do we understand why she’s missing. Seems our hero was a good timing, hard-living man, but he swears all that’s behind him now:
All around the world I never will forget
I lost all my money, my woman, and my pet
But I’ve got to have you baby and I will settle for nothing less
Give up all my good time baby and stay for happiness
He’s lost everything and nothing hurts more than losing his woman. He’ll give it all up to get her back, just listen to the growl when he sings “I’ll settle for nothing less.” Many a man has claimed he’d give up the party life for a woman, but the shake and tremble in Little Milton’s voice will make you believe.
Coming in at a compact 2:40 seconds, “Grits Ain’t Groceries” marked the pinnacle of a blues career that started in Inverness, Mississippi and took James Milton Campbell Junior to St. Louis, Chicago and beyond. He recorded mainly for Bobbin Records (he was their chief A & R man) and Checker Records, which was part of the Chess Record Empire. In addition to his own performing, Little Milton produced acts like Albert King and Fontella Bass. After Chess Records broke up, he recorded for Stax for many years until its bankruptcy in 1975.
I had the pleasure of seeing Little Milton live a couple of times, once in Chicago and once at the old Tramps Music Club in New York City. Always a professional, he made you understand the blues with his guitar style (think B.B. King with a little more funk) and voice full of soul and conviction. If he sung about needing five dollars, you’d reach in into your pocket to give him your last five dollars.
You can learn more about Little Milton at a very neat website dedicated to him.
Little Milton died in August 2005 and is buried in South Haven, Mississippi.