Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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LIGGINS, Joe and Jimmy

Brothers who led successful R&B bands with a total of 16 top ten hits in various Billboard charts '45--53. Joe (b '15, Guthrie OK; d 1 Aug. '87) was a pianist and vocalist who wrote 'The Honeydripper' c'42; he recorded a two-sided version for Exclusive '45 and it was no. 1 on the 'Most Played Juke Box Race Records' (as the black chart was called at the time) for 18 weeks, phenomenal for the time, putting the R&B record business on the map; it was said to have sold 2m in '45--6. Label boss Leon René told Arnold Shaw many years later that a restaurant owner demanded that the record be taken off the juke box because the waitresses were 'hopping all over the place' when the record was played. Joe had the priceless skill in R&B of making a small band sound bigger; the Honeydrippers were only a sextet but they had hit after hit for several years. At the same session he recorded 'Left A Good Deal In Mobile' backing Herb Jeffries; another hit was 'Got A Right To Cry', with dixielander Joe Darensbourg guesting on clarinet. Despite a label credit for Eddie Davis on bass, Joe said he never used anybody except Red Callender at Exclusive; he moved to the Specialty label '50, where his brother was recording. Jimmy (b 14 Oct. '22, Newby OK) was also a vocalist, self-taught on guitar; he moved to San Diego '32 and was a professional boxer, training with Archie Moore; then a driver for his brother's band, then had top ten juke box hit 'Tear Drop Blues' '48 (octet had three reeds incl. Harold Land); 'Don't Put Me Down' '49 and 'Drunk' '53 (made in Miami by 'Jimmy Liggins and His 3-D Music') were top ten in both juke box and best-selling record categories. Joe recorded a couple of tracks for Mercury '54; Jimmy recorded for Aladdin '54, Joe in '57; Joe made an album of his hits for Mercury c'61; Jimmy formed Duplex Records '58--78, recorded for it '65 and the brothers made two tracks together on Duplex that year. Jimmy also recorded for Duplex as Big Moose McDowell and His Tornados; went to Durham NC '75 to operate a music school.