The Roots Canal: Jimmy Liggins & His Drops of JoyJimmy Liggins --That's What's Knocking Me Out
Jimmy Liggins -- Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man
Jimmy Liggins -- Drunk
As the song says, Jimmy Liggins knocks me out. His hard-driving, bluesy proto-rock'n'roll gets me right in the guts. His voice isn't pretty, like his big brother Joe's. His diction is rough. Sometimes he's not singing so much as talking to the music. And his guitar work isn't dazzling. But his band lays down a groove that grabs you like a locomotive and doesn't let go until you're halfway to Santa Fe. Boogie-woogie piano riffs, powerful bass lines and a nasty horn section just wring you out.
Jimmy started out as a chauffeur for brother Joe, whose smash hit The Honeydripper put Los Angeles at the center of the R&B universe in the mid-'40s. He put together his own band in 1947, patterned after his brother's but with a more aggressive style, heavier on the rhythm and dominated by surging, growling saxophones. It captured the spirit of the times, riding the shift from smooth, jazz-oriented jump blues to the rockin' R&B of the late '40s and early '50s. His second record hit the charts with Cadillac Boogie (precursor to Jackie Brenston's Rocket 88) on the B side. He had a string of R&B hits for the next five years but faded from view when rock'n'roll went mainstream. Jimmy's music was just too grown-up for the teenage market. His last hit was a bit of rhythmic funk called Drunk without a single chord change.
I can't believe Jimmy Liggins isn't better remembered. In a way, he was one of the first great rockers. The difference between Joe's smooth jump blues and Jimmy's aggressive R&B is like the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Polite vs. pushy. Nice vs. nasty.
I don't know where to begin with Jimmy's music. There's not one song that stands out above all the others. At least half a dozen are just as good as -- or better than -- his biggest hits. So I just picked a few of my favorites. Enjoy.
Specialty has released a great collection of Jimmy's work, along with a second volume if it turns you on as much as it does me. Both are available on emusic:
[Jimmy Liggins and His Drops of Joy]
[Jimmy Liggins and His Drops of Joy, Vol. 2]
I also have some Jimmy on a Christmas CD 'A Blue Yule' and he does 'I Want My Babay For Christmas' - just a plain ol' burner!
Thanks for yet another great post.