A native of Guthrie, OK, Joe "Honeydripper" Liggins grew up in San Diego, where he developed his multi-instrumental musical abilities at San Diego State University. Liggins established himself professionally with intensive gigging -- in the company of such powerhouse players as Cee Pee Johnson and Illinois Jacquet -- in and around Los Angeles beginning in 1939. During this time he acquired a nickname that was destined to make musical history. While working for Sammy Franklin & His California Rhythm Rascals, Liggins cooked up a catchy jive tune and used his moniker for the title, calling it "The Honeydripper." The song became enormously popular when performed before live audiences. When Franklin rejected the opportunity to record it, Liggins formed his own group, calling them the Honeydrippers. In November 1944 he took them into the small studios of Leroy Hurte's small-time Bronze label and waxed a two-part "Honeydripper" as if to prove that the thing could in fact be done. While steaming up the house during their regular engagement at the Samba Club, Joe Liggins & His Honeydrippers came to the attention of composer and producer Leon René, who in March of 1945 began recording their music for release on his Exclusive record label. After laying down "Blue Moods," a delectable instrumental serenade, Liggins and company recorded their definitive version of "The Honeydripper," again in two parts for the A-side and B-side. Released as Exclusive 207, the record shot to the top of the Billboard chart and stayed there longer than any other single in Billboard history. On November 13, 1945, Cab Calloway recorded a flashy cover of "The Honeydripper," sounding very much as if the song had been written especially for the Calloway band. Meanwhile, Liggins continued to make hip records with his excellent ensemble bolstered with saxophonists James and Little Willie Jackson. On the second Exclusive session of April 20, 1945, the band was augmented with the presence of clarinetist Joe Darensbourg, active at that time on the West Coast Dixieland revival scene. Some of these tunes, like "Dripper's Boogie" and "Doodle-Do-Da-Deet," are in the Slim Gaillard or Earl Bostic bag. "T.W.A." opens with a hilarious outburst as Liggins shouts over the sound of aircraft engines: "Look out, man! Lemme outta here! You know I ain't used to bein' up this high! 25,000 feet!? Whoooeee!" The coolest instrumental tracks are Liggins' fine rendition of Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and a moody series of sultry originals: "Harlemesque," "Tanya," and "Yvette" invoke a nocturnal urban landscape worthy of Raymond Chandler.
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf