Celebrating Black Music Month: Joe Liggins and ‘The Honeydripper’

In the 1940s it was very rare for an R&B artist to hold on to the no. 1 spot however, prominent pianist Joe Liggins and his band the Honeydrippers smashed any and all records when their single “The Honeydripper” hit no. 1 on the then “race chart” and remained there for 18 weeks. A staple in R&B, Joe Liggins who was born and raised in Oklahoma played with numerous outfits including Sammy Franklin’s California Rhythm Rascals. It was not until Franklin passed on Liggin’s “The Honeydripper”that the pianist and singer formed his own group Joe Liggins and The Honeydrippers. Teamed with legendary songwriter Leon Rene who produced “Rockin Robin” for singer Bobby Day (later revived in 1972 when Michael Jackson made the song a top ten pop hit), Liggins released his infectious “Honeydripper” in 1945 on Rene’s Exclusive Records. The single was played any and everywhere topping the “race chart” for a record 18 weeks a feat only matched by another 40s band Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five which topped the charts during the summer of 1946. Credited with pushing a his brand of jump blues and R&B, Liggins and his group went on the score nine additional hits including “Roll ‘Em” and “Tanya” the later of which was covered by legendary blue guitarist Earl Hooker. Sadly, Liggins and the Honeydrippers disbanded during the 50s just after “race music” became Rhythm and Blues. Liggins went on to produce and perform with his brother Jimmy, earning another hit record Pink Champagne.


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