Chuck Higgins Biography

Charles Williams Higgins, 17 April 1924, Gary, Indiana, USA. Higgins was an R&B singer best known for his recording ‘Pachuko Hop’ in 1952. The son of a preacher who also played trombone, Higgins learned to play the trumpet at the age of 10. In 1940 he moved to Los Angeles, where he played the trumpet in his high-school band. While attending the Los Angeles Music Conservatory, Higgins formed a band with pianist Frank Dunn, saxophonist Johnny Parker and others on bass and drums. After a series of personnel changes, Higgins took over the saxophone position and wrote ‘Pachuko Hop’, featuring a squealing solo on that instrument. It became a highlight of his stage show and was heard by Vernon ‘Jake’ Porter, owner of Combo Records. Porter released the single (‘pachuko’ was a slang word denoting a Mexican-American dressed fashionably in baggy pants, with a long key chain), with the b-side ‘Motorhead Baby’, another raw R&B rocker (and later the inspiration for the nickname of Frank Zappa sideman James ‘Motorhead’ Sherwood, and subsequently, the heavy metal band Motörhead). Although the record was not a big seller outside the Los Angeles area, it made Higgins a local favourite and he secured concert bookings with Charlie Parker, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Ace, Little Richard and the Orioles. Among Higgins’ band members at the time were Jimmy Nolen and Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, who then left for a successful blues solo career. Higgins enlisted Daddy Cleanhead to take most of the lead vocals on recordings and as Higgins never signed an exclusive recording contract, his records were released on numerous labels, including Aladdin Records, Caddy, Lucky, Recorded in Hollywood, Specialty Records and Dootone. Primarily an instrumentalist, Higgins also recorded some music featuring singers. He retired from performing in the early 60s and went on to teach music at Los Angeles high schools and colleges. He attempted a comeback briefly in the mid-70s, performing in a disco style, but achieved no success. Two albums recorded in the late 70s returned him to his earlier style and attracted a small European following. In 1983 he toured the UK and later returned to performing in his original style at Los Angeles nightclubs during the 80s. A collection of his early rare singles, Yak A Dak, was released on the Swedish Saxophonograph label in 1990.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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