Little Willie Jackson. Who is he, you may ask yourself? Well, without realising it you could already be familiar with his work, you may even have seen him on BBC TV back in 1983.
He was featured with Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers in a R&B concert, which included other Blues legends such as Big Mama Thornton, Lloyd Glenn and Lowell Fulson. The concert was especially staged in a theatre in downtown Los Angeles so that the BBC could film these legends for posterity. (How about a repeat??)
Willie Jackson was a multi-talented blind musician who sang and played alto, tenor and baritone saxophone. He was featured on Joe Liggins' million selling R&B classic The Honeydripper (Exclusive 207).
Liggins and Jackson had started working together in the mid 1930s as members of the resident jazz band at the Creole Palace, a hot San Diego night spot. By 1940, both musicians had moved north to Los Angeles to join that city's thriving music scene. In 1944 they got back together to form their own group and a year later recorded the seminal The Honeydripper Pts 1 & 2 which went on to become the biggest selling R&B record of 1945.
In his role as jukebox distributor, Modern Records' Jules Bihari had first hand knowledge of the mega-sales generated by Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers. Bihari was keen to grab some of that action, however Liggins was out of reach as he was signed exclusively to Exclusive Records. Unable to get his hands on Joe Liggins, Jules did the next best thing and, in 1947, signed Liggins' band leader Little Willie Jackson.
As the Petrillo recording ban was looming, the Biharis rushed Jackson into the Radio Recorders studio, where he recorded a whole slew of material that would hopefully get the coins dropping "right into the slot" for the jukebox trade.
Jackson's band was actually the Honeydrippers and Joe Liggins is believed to be featured on piano on several of these tracks. So here you have 24 classic recordings from the late 1940s, half of them previously unissued, all transferred with loving care from the original master lacquers. Those of you who have heard the Gene Phillips CD on Ace (CDCHD 746) will already know how good the sound from these lacquers can be and that you can trust the studio wizards at Ace to get the best from these great sources.
By Ted Carroll