Rock & Roll Forefather Bill Doggett Passes On

Mr. Honky Tonk, Bill Doggett, passed away this past

Thursday (Nov. 14) at his home on Long Island after a brief illness. He was 80

years old. Though best known for his multi-million selling instrumental hit of

1956, "Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)," Doggett was one of the trailblazers of jazz

and rhythm & blues.

Born in Philadelphia in 1916, Doggett taught himself

piano and formed his first band in 1935. By 1940 he was playing for the Ink

Spots and arranging for Ella Fitzgerald. He joined up with the great Louis

Jordan & His Tympany Five (of Five Guys Named Moe fame) in 1947, playing on

such classics as "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and paving the way for rock 'n'


In 1952, Doggett took up the Hammond organ, formed his own combo and,

in 1953, signed on with Cincinnati's King Records, home of Wynonie Harris, Hank

Ballard and James Brown. Doggett outsold them all with a little tune he and his

band (Clifford Scott, Shep Shepherd and Billy Butler) worked out between sets

at a gig somewhere in Ohio. As is the case, King owner Syd Nathan didn't think

much of it and let Doggett and the group keep the writing credit on the tune

(not a practise to happen very often in those days). "Honky Tonk (Parts 1 & 2)"

went on to sell over six million copies and become the biggest selling

instrumental hit of all time.

Doggett continued to record for King into

the early '60s, with several other Top 40 releases, but none as big as "Honky

Tonk." Since then Doggett recorded for a series of labels in various styles but

always featuring his distinctive Hammond organ sound. There were many who took

up that sound since then, but Doggett was one of the first. I am proud to have

worked with him on what was to become his last release, 1991's The Right

Choice (After Hours/Ichiban). He was a rarity in the music business, a

truly gentle man and a great talent.