The Aged P

…just toasting and ruminating….

25 September
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“Honky Tonk”..Bill Doggett Combo 1956 – Two Of The Greatest Guitar And Sax Solos Ever?

I’m in my 70s and remember skating round to this at Brixton Roller Rink (long gone) when I was a teenager, trying to impress the girls – and someone else was also probably checking out the talent at the same time across the ocean…

I’m 68 and this is my favorite R’ n R’ instrumental of all time. Reminds me of Bond’s Ice Cream parlor back in 1957 in Cedar Grove, NJ where I spent more time than I did in my own home.

Plonking around on an acoustic guitar at home trying to copy the guitar solo (and failing miserably) I remember thinking if you can play guitar like this then you can call yourself a guitarist…

So, anyone remember “Honky Tonk” by the Bill Doggett combo? It was a massive hit in 1956 but seems to have fallen down the memory hole which is a pity because, in my opinion, it contains not one but two of the greatest instrumental solos ever – Billy Butler on guitar followed by Clifford Scott on tenor sax. Never tire of listening to them and every time I get that tingle at the back of my neck.

Of course you’ll never find it on any “great guitar solo” lists since those lists usually assume that rock music only began in 1965. Why? Because that’s when “rock journalists” appeared so increasingly the first decade of rock and roll is just forgotten….

“Honky Tonk” was conceived by Clifford Scott and Billy Butler (who played guitar in Doggett’s combo) in an informal hotel room jam session before a dance in Lima, Ohio. That night, on stage and without rehearsal, Butler told Bill Doggett and drummer Shep Shepherd to “just play a shuffle” and when they got through the people started to applaud. They wouldn’t get off the dance floor, they just continued to stand there and appalud “more, more, more..”. So they did it again, played some other tunes and had an intermission, and when they came back the audience started yelling “We wanna hear that tune!”. And they didn’t even have a name for it. When the band got back to New York, they set up a recording session with a studio down on 31st Street. The engineer turned the machine on, he goes out to take a smoke – he wasn’t regulating the controls, he wasn’t doing anything – and Doggett’s band went on and just played. When they started to stop, he said “Keep it up!”, which they did and that’s how it became a two-sided record. “Honky Tonk”, parts 1 & 2, went to # 2 on the pop charts and # 1 on the R&B charts in 1956. Writing credit goes to B. Doggett, S. Shepherd, C. Scott and B. Butler.

BTW…if you fancy trying that Billy Butler solo you might find this useful…

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