Wednesday, October 27, 2004


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Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers, The Honeydripper.

From February to May 1945, the War Manpower Commission imposed a midnight curfew on all clubs and theaters. Joe Liggins and his Honeydrippers were the house band at the Samba Club, in Los Angeles, and when the curfew began, they started playing "The Honeydripper," beginning at a quarter to twelve and finishing it exactly fifteen minutes later at lights-out. When Leon Rene, a record exec, wanted to record the song, he asked if Liggins could "cut it down." "We don't cut 'The Honeydripper' down," was the reply. But eventually, Liggins consented.

"The Honeydripper" was recorded on April 20, 1945, eight days after Franklin Roosevelt died of a stroke, and eight days before Mussolini was killed at Lake Como. Rene took the disc "to Sybil's Drugstore at 54th and Central and put it on the jukebox that morning around 8 o'clock. He went back that night around 7 o'clock to see if it had played. It had only played 135 times," says writer Ed Ward. It would ultimately sell a million copies.

If swing was waning, this type of music--bluesy, riff-heavy, dirty, danceable and unrelenting--was ready to take its place.

This and other great Liggins tracks can be found here.

Ward's fine account of the early days of R&B and rock and roll is one-third of "Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll"; the other parts are not as compelling.

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