1945 was a transitional year in R&B history. Big band records and releases on the major labels still featured prominently on the charts, but independent labels were starting to make inroads. The top selling R&B record of the year was Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper” on Leon René’s Exclusive label. The success of this record embodied several trends that would dominate R&B in the next few years: the rise of small jump bands in the wake of the success of Louis Jordan (the year’s top selling R&B artist); the challenge of new independent labels to the dominance of the major labels; and the development of Los Angeles as a major R&B recording centre.
Joe Liggins was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1915. His family emigrated to San Diego, California in 1932. For much of the 1930’s Joe played trumpet and wrote arrangements for a variety of local bands in the San Diego area, but in 1939 he moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career. He played in a quartet with Illinois Jacquet and then with the bands of Cee Pee Johnson and Sammy Franklin. The latter band featured Joe’s composition “The Honeydripper” in its stage act. When Franklin refused to finance a recording of “The Honeydripper”, Joe formed his own small group, The Honeydrippers, with himself on piano, “Little” Willie Jackson and James Jackson on saxes, and Eddie Davis on bass.
By now “The Honeydripper” was a 15 minute long riffer which closed the Liggins’ band’s act every night. Leon René, owner of Exclusive and Excelsior Records heard it, liked it and got the band into the studio in April 1945. The number was released as a two parter and by the end of 1946 had shifted an estimated two million units and inspired a string of cover versions by artists including Roosevelt Sykes, Cab Calloway and Jimmie Lunceford. Two other big hits were also recorded at that session: “Left A Good Deal In Mobile” on which the band backed Duke Ellington vocalist Herb Jeffries, and “I Got A Right To Cry” which was another hit for Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers.
Released in 1988, this Mr R&B LP was the second Joe Liggins compilation on that label. The music is a mix of instrumental shuffles, some of Joe’s more romantic song compositions, a bit of jive, and in “Yvette” and “Lonesome Guitar” a couple of instrumentals that sound like background music from a film noir. These sides were recorded for Exclusive between 1945 and 1949.
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1. The Honeydripper Part 1
2. The Honeydripper Part 2
3. Left A Good Deal In Mobile (v – Herb Jeffries)
4. Key Jam
5. How Come
6. Apple Of My Eye
9. Drippers' Boogie Part 1
10. Drippers' Boogie Part 2
11. Lonesome Guitar
12. You Ain't Goin' To Heaven No How
13. Three O'Clock Jump Part 1
14. Three O'Clock Jump Part 2
15. Some Of These Days
ONLY YOU - “Fuzzy” Owen • “Yer” “Fer” Me • c. 1956 Get it: *The Other Side of Bakersfield Vol. 2* Label photo: YouTube
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