Joe Liggins

The top selling R&B record of the year 1945 was pianist Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper,” which followed the trend started by Louis Jordan of smaller jump bands recording for the growing radio market. This period also saw the expanding importance of Los Angeles as an influential music city.

Joe Liggins was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma on July 9, 1916. After attempting to learn various brass instruments, Joe Liggins settled down to study musical composition and piano arrangement. After moving to California in 1939, he began writing for and playing with local bands, graduating in the 40s to the respected units of Cee Pee Johnson and Sammy Franklin; he was working with the latter when, in 1945, he left to form his own group, the Honeydrippers.

Joe Liggins And His Honeydrippers first recorded for Exclusive, with whom they had 10 hits between 1945 and 1949 - including the huge crossover hits “The Honeydripper” and “I’ve Got A Right To Cry;” he followed his brother Jimmy to Specialty Records in 1950 where the hits continued with “Rag Mop” and the hugely successful “Pink Champagne” (Billboard’s number 1 blues record of the year).

Leaving Specialty in 1954, Liggins went briefly to Mercury Records (1954) and Aladdin Records (1956) before returning to Mercury to record an album in 1962. Later singles appeared on tiny independents such as his own Honeydripper label and Jimmy Liggins’ Duplex Records, and he was enjoying something of a renaissance at the time of his death in 1987.

Source: James Nadal

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