Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Bill Doggett

  • The Very Best of Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk [Collectables, 2004]

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Very Best of Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk [Collectables, 2004]
Don't blame me if "Honky Tonk" didn't place in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs" thing--I wrote it in at No. 1, parts one and two please, because though Clifford Scott's tenor made two the biggest r&b instrumental ever, it was one that I absorbed for an hour on the living-room floor one gray, life-changing day in 1956. Over simple drums, fat discrepant handclaps, and eventually some bass, guitarist Billy Butler states and then embellishes--in a spare, perfect three-chorus solo competing axmen soon learned verbatim--the blues elemental best designated the "Honky Tonk" riff. Then comes one long climax, Scott spilling and shouting and spluttering and rejoicing till his sax finally recaps the theme so everybody can get loud and go home--even leader Doggett, an organist by trade. As near as can be determined, "Honky Tonk" is the only song ever covered by both James Brown, a loyal fan of his King labelmate, and the Beach Boys. There are many Doggett repackages, but this one sequences the two parts consecutively, albeit at tracks six and seven. Follow-ups "Slow Walk" and "Ram-Bunk-Shush" are included. Also 21 other titles. [Recyclables]