Friday, September 15, 2006:

The Roots Canal: Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers

Joe Liggins -- The Honeydripper
Joe Liggins -- The Honeydripper, Pt 1
Joe Liggins -- Dripper's Boogie, Pt 1

After going bonkers for his kid brother Jimmy, I would be remiss to ignore the pioneer in the family, big brother Joe Liggins. His music may sound relatively tame in retrospect, but in his day he was one of the most important figures in the evolution of R&B from swing to jump blues to rock'n'roll. I already posted Joe's Goin' Back to New Orleans (yes, that's the song covered by Dr. John on his album of the same name) back in April, but here are some more.

If ever a musician was defined by a song, it was Joe Liggins with The Honeydripper. Joe quit Charlie Franklin's big band when they wouldn't cut a record of it. He formed one of the small combos that would become a hallmark of jump blues, called it The Honeydrippers, and got a regular gig at a place called the Samba Club. There was a midnight curfew in LA because of the fear of Japanese bombing after Pearl Harbor, so every night they'd play The Honeydripper from quarter-of-twelve until closing. He cut it as a two-part record on Exclusive Records in 1945. It sold two million copies and spent 18 weeks as #1 on the R&B charts (then known as the Race charts), still tied for longest with Louis Jordan's Choo Choo Ch'Boogie.

This version of The Honeydripper is a remake Joe made after joining his brother at Specialty Records in the early '50s. It's basically an instrumental, and is actually patterned after Part Two of the original. Part One, less known today, was predominantly vocal. He followed that up with a similar but even hotter two-part song, Dripper's Boogie, the next year. I've only posted Part One of that song.

Like so many other R&B pioneers, Joe's music was considered too old-fashioned to survive the onslaught of rock'n'roll in the mid-'50s. Joe hung around, though, and actually reformed The Honeydrippers during the blues revival of the 1970s and '80s. He continued playing The Honeydripper right up to his death in 1987, even performing at the Monterey Jazz and Chicago Blues festivals that year.

There's a fabulous double-CD import of Joe's music on Proper Records. I highly recommend it. A lot of this post came from the liner notes. There are also a couple of CDs of Joe's later work on Specialty Records on emusic.

[The Shuffle Boogie King]
[Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers]
[Dripper's Boogie]
More good rockin' tunes. Thank you

Yeah, these are a lot of fun.

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