Jimmy Liggins was born in 1922 in Newby, Oklahoma. As a teen, he took up the sport of boxing (under the name Kid Zulu), but went to work for his older musician brother Joe as his chauffeur. As his brother’s chauffer, Jimmy Liggins saw first hand the post World War II R&B music scene. He soon developed a desire to start his own band and began to learn the basics of music and the guitar.
In 1947 he started “Jimmy Liggins and the Drops of Joy”, patterned (as to be expected) after his brother’s band. With Jimmy as leader, guitarist and singer, the band recorded with the Los Angeles based Specialty Records label from 1947-1954. The band had several R&B hits, to include “Cadillac Boogie”, “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man”, and “Drunk”. The band was also popular as a touring act, playing often in the Los Angeles area and the Mid-West.
By 1952, records sales had slowed for Jimmy Liggins and the Drops of Joy, as the public’s music tastes were starting to change. Many R&B performers were aware something new was on the horizon. But few were able to adapt, and the tidal wave of rock and roll music in 1954-56 left most jump blues/R&B performers in its wake.
In July 1954, Liggins left Specialty Records for the Aladdin label (also based in Los Angeles). His first recording for Aladdin was “I Ain’t Drunk (I’m Just Drinkin’)”, a response to “Drunk”, his last hit for Specialty. Although “I Ain’t Drunk” was popular in Los Angeles (and is now considered a classic of the jump blues genre), and the band remained somewhat popular on the road, Jimmy Liggins slowly faded from the music scene.
Jimmy Liggins had moved out from under the shadow of his older brother, establishing a hard swinging and successful band. His music and stage presence impacted and influenced other rock and roll musicians such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley and Elvis Presley. Liggins died in July 1983 in Durham, NC.
Some of Jimmy Liggins’ great songs include: “I Ain’t Drunk”; “Cadillac Boogie”; “Saturday Night Boogie Woogie Man”; and “No More Alcohol”.