Recorded in Los Angeles, 1946. Personnel: Joe Liggins (vocal, piano), Little Willie Jackson (alto, baritone saxes), James Jackson (tenor sax), Frank Pasley (guitar), Red Callender (bass), Peppy Prince (drums).
Joe Liggins had a massive hit in the race charts in 1945 with the two part riffer “The Honeydripper.” He was one of a number of jump blues artists who helped launch the first wave of rhythm and blues music on the West Coast as World War Two drew to a close. Los Angeles became a centre for the new music as independent record companies such as Exclusive, Modern, Aladdin, Specialty and others started up to cater for the increasing popularity of performers like Roy Milton, Jack McVea, T-Bone Walker, Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, Ivory Joe Hunter and Johnny Otis.
This disc represents quite a change in mood from "The Honeydripper" with "Lovers Lament" finding Joe in a mellow and sentimental mood while "Miss Betty's Blues" has an air of melancholy and loss about it.
The origins of “Miss Betty’s Blues” go back well before “The Honeydripper,” as Joe related in an interview quoted in Peter Grendysa’s sleeve notes for the Jukebox Lil LP “Darktown Strutters Ball.”
“I wrote that tune for a girl named Betty. Before I got my own band or even played with a band, I came to Los Angeles to play piano for Betty. I had met Betty in San Diego at the Creole Palace – called the Douglas nightclub. She needed a pianist and I knew I was coming to Los Angeles to live when I got married, so I wanted a line to a job. I came up and started accompanying Betty in a night club, mostly after hours.
“Betty would fall in love with these guys and she’d go with a guy for maybe two or three months, and they’d break up. I’d pick her up for work and she’d be all morose and sad and she’d perform that way. And I just wrote the tune – ‘Miss Betty’s got the blues, ‘cause her man is gone …”
Joe Liggins’ “The Honeydripper” LP on Jukebox Lil is posted here.
Many thanks to El Enmascarado for original 78rpm label scans and rips from shellac.