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Album Review

This second volume of the complete recordings of Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers opens with their final 13 sides for the Exclusive label recorded in Los Angeles in 1948 and 1949. There are lots of instrumental tracks here — nine of the Exclusives, in fact. "Roll 'Em" was a big hit for Liggins, and deservedly so as it is one of his very best boogie-woogie exercises. "Big Baritone" bears more than passing resemblance to Liggins' opus of 1946, "Yvette." "Key Jam" seems to have been closely patterned on Duke Ellington's "Merry Go Round," while "End of a Kiss" resembles both "Don't Get Around Much Any More" and "I Guess I'm Just a Lucky So and So." For an R&B retrospective, this package sure holds a lot of jazz, proving once again that stylistic delineations are relatively illusory half of the time. "Three O'Clock Jump," a cheerful sequel to Count Basie, really rocks and rolls. Part of what made the Honeydrippers band so tasty was the presence of saxophonists James and Little Willie Jackson. The riff spectrum widens as "Hey Mama" and "Fascination" tap into tango and rhumba rhythms. There is a splendid rendering of "I Cover the Waterfront," and "Lonesome Guitar" (featuring Frank Pasley) is a masterpiece of slow blue reverie. On January 20, 1950, Joe Liggins cut his first sides for the Specialty label. Slight changes had occurred in the band personnel, most significantly the addition of a third saxophonist, tenor man Maxwell Davis. "Pink Champagne" was another number one hit record for a little while. The endlessly covered "Rag Mop" was originally derived from Henry "Red" Allen's "Get the Mop," one of several postwar hijacked hits. Liggins kept his arrangement at a lively but not frenetic pace for maximum grooviness. He tapped into the boogie-woogie craze with both original and shameless imitation Louis Jordan-styled novelties. "Little Black Book" has a decidedly boppish line. With baritone sax behind the alto, it sounds a lot like some of the records James Moody was putting out during the late '40s.


Born: 09 July 1915 in Guthrie, OK

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s

Pianist Joe Liggins and his band, the Honeydrippers, tore up the R&B charts during the late '40s and early '50s with their polished brand of polite R&B. Liggins scored massive hits with "The Honeydripper" in 1945 and "Pink Champagne" five years later, posting a great many more solid sellers in between. Born in Oklahoma, Liggins moved to San Diego in 1932. He moved to Los Angeles in 1939 and played with various outfits, including Sammy Franklin's California Rhythm Rascals. When Franklin took an unwise...
Full Bio
1948-1950, Joe Liggins
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