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Wednesday 24 August 2016

Chuck Higgins - Yak A Dak

Side A:
01. Yak A Dak
02. Shotgun Wedding
03. Groove
04. Wiggle
05. Greasy Pig
06. Something's Goin' On In My Room
07. Candied Yam
08. Kubeon
09. That Dubbonet Wine

Side B:
01. Pachuko Hop
02. Let Me Come Back Home
03. West Side
04. Chop Chop
05. Rock
06. Chuck A Buck
07. Beautiful Love
08. Double Dip
09. Baby Shoes

Download from here:

We've had plenty of Big Jay McNeely and Joe Houston on the blog, but up until now we've never featured the third member of the 1950s Los Angeles Honk Triumvirate, Chuck Higgins. This is El Honk Primitivo - Chuck famously learned to play the tenor sax in two weeks in order to retain a residency at the Club Alabam when the owner decided he had no use for Chuck's trumpet playing. However, we should remember that Chuck was a trained musician, having played trumpet in an Airforce band and having attended the Los Angeles Music Conservatory after leaving the service. In later years he taught music at Compton High and UCLA, so although he may not have had the solid grounding of Big Jay or Joe Houston on the tenor sax, he still knew his way round the horn sufficiently well to record some real rousing R&B and rock'n'roll.

Chuck was a label hopper around 1950s Los Angeles with most of his best work appearing on Combo and Dootone, plus he had the occasional disc on John Dolphin's labels. He also recorded for the bigger indie labels Specialty and Aladdin, but his longest commitment was to Jake Porter's considerably smaller Combo which issued his biggest hit "Pachuko Hop" in 1952.

Labels like Combo, Dootone and the John Dolphin marques lacked national distribution opportunities, so most of Chuck's output sold only in Southern California. I've recently been immersing myself in reading about and listening to the R&B scene in 1950s LA and I've been going through my vinyl to compile a Chuck Higgins "LP" which I'll post in the very near future. In the meantime here's some background info on the tracks on "Yak a Dak." The recording dates and personnel are on the back cover of the LP along with notes by Jim Dawson who interviewed Chuck for this LP.

I'm grateful for the info on the Chuck Higgins discography on I've only dug out a minimum of additional information. Chuck's sides on Combo and the John Dolphin labels don't seem to have been covered in Billboard. Dootsie Williams did advertise extensively in Billboard and his Dootone discs were reviewed regularly as were Aladdin and Specialty releases. Here's the facts (such as they are) on the tracks:

01. Yak A Dak - Aladdin 3215; December 1953

02. Shotgun Wedding - Kicks 6; 1955

03. Groove - Kicks 6; 1955

04. Wiggle - Aladdin 3224 credited to "Gene Forrest and the Four Feathers with Chuck Higgins Orch"); 1954

05. Greasy Pig - Lucky 45-005 (vocal - Frank Dunn); 1954

06. Something's Goin' On In My Room - Specialty 541 (Credited to "Daddy Cleanhead") (vocal - Fred Higgins aka "Daddy Cleanhead"); January 1955

07. Candied Yam - Lucky 45-005; 1954

08. Kubeon - Combo 144; 1958

09. That Dubbonet Wine - Recorded In Hollywood 399 (vocal - Carl "Johnny" Green); 1954

10. Pachuko Hop - rerecording made for Starla LP "Art Laboe's Memories Of El Monte"; 1960

11. Let Me Come Back Home - Specialty 541 (credited to "Daddy Cleanhead") (vocal - Fred Higgins aka "Daddy Cleanhead"); January 1955

12. West Side - Combo 48; 1953

13. Chop Chop - R&B 1314; 1955

14. Rock - R&B 1314; 1955

15. Chuck A Buck - Aladdin 3215; December 1953

16. Beautiful Love - Money 214-45 (vocal - The Mello Moods aka The Mellotones); 1956

17. Double Dip - Loma 706; 1956

18. Baby Shoes - Combo 170; 1960

Buying Chuck Higgins on CD is relatively straightforward as Ace (UK) own the rights to his Combo and Dootone masters. Here's the gen -

Twenty five years ago Ace brought out a compilation of Chuck's Specialty sides. It's now out of print but still obtainable. The title refers to an unissued rerecording of "Pachuko Hop" which is included in the collection:

I've sung the praises of the legendary "Honk! Honk! Honk!" collection loud and long on the blog. It includes six Chuck sides, four from Combo and two from Dootone. And there's a whole mess of other honkin' goodies on the disc, including the original Combo release of "Pachuko Hop."  Just go and buy it. Rating: 20/10

Ace have also issued an excellent compilation of Dootone tracks featuring nine by Chuck, ten by Roy Milton, plus Helen Humes, Lorenzo Holden, Claude McLin and Joe Houston. The artwork and tracklist are based on a 1956 Dootone LP, "Rock 'n' Roll versus Rhythm and Blues" which featured six tracks apiece from Chuck and Roy Milton.

The go-to CD for Chuck Higgins is the Ace collection "Chuck Higgins Blows His Wig!" which has 24 Combo sides. There's no "Pachuko Hop", though. An excellent booklet by Tony Rounce is included.

Ace has also reissued the 1950s Combo LP "Pachucko Hop" on CD. Twelve tracks plus an eye-popping reproduction of the original LP sleeve which was swiftly withdrawn back in the tight-laced 1950s. Cover art below purely in the interests of historical research.

There's more Chuck coming soon - and I might even find an excuse to post that LP cover again.


Anonymous said...

The “Pachucko Hop” ElPee cover gal is (was?) supposedly legendary Dee Jay Huggy Boy’s gal pal or wife . . .

I think that’s the story some such expert (Dawson? Propes???) once told waaaaay back in the ‘80s. And, yes, it was “banned” and is now quite “rare” as the dreaded Record Collector / “Hobbyist” term goes . . .

Give the image a 1 / 4 turn to the RIGHT (“clockwise”) and see what the photog saw (laid out on the industrial institutional linoleum “tile” flooring . . . .) Is that some hep cat’s necktie, strategically placed, or just some sort of a one-piece topless bathing suit . . . ? Talk about “off the rack”. . . . .

And there have been various spellings of the first word of the classic Chuck track’s title in label copy, etc., over the years, but this album uses - Geddit? - “PaCHUCKo . . .”

“Pachuco” is, of course, is a term for “Mexican American.” I’ll leave it to other culture vultures and any resident Be Bop anthropological experts to spell it out any more than that.

- B._B.

boogiewoody said...

I was wondering about the different spellings - Pachuko and Pachucko. There's also Pachuco. By coincidence a couple of hours ago I came across a collection on Twilightzone called Pachuco Boogie - 21 tracks of Hispanic hepness from LA including the great Lalo Guerrero, But no Marijuana Boogie ...

Anonymous said...

Ole, oye, and oy vey.

Ol' Lalo. . . .

Much of what he did might now be deemed "inappropriate" by the P.C. police in these super-sensitive times.

Just Build A Wall between them and yourself and dig the coolness that is vintage Lalo.

I don't think he's ever been properly served with a CD compilation of his '50s goodies.

- B._B.

John Williamson said...

I did alive cd featuring Chuck Higgins around 1985, it was recorded live at a house party it featured Chuck Higgins with my Magic Blues Band. Here's the link to it