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Saturday, June 18, 2011


Charles Williams Higgins was born April 17, 1924 in Gary, Indiana. The son of a preacher, Higgins learned to play trupet at the age of ten.
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. he lived in a largely Mexican-American neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles called Aliso Village. He was profoundly influenced by his surroundings.
  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 in 1952 (‘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.
  "Pachuko Hop" was first played on the radio by legendary Los Angeles disc jockey Hunetr Hancok, a white man whose show featured black music and was hugely popular with Chicanos. The song featured a 16 year old Johnny "Guitar" Watson on piano and possibly because of it's title only sold locally.
  Higgins was a huge drawing card not only in the Los Angeles area but also in San Bernadino, Oxnard, Tulare & Bakersfield.
  After Johnny "Guitar" Watson left the group to pursue a 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.
 In 1955-56, the Higgins combo recorded for Dootsie Williams's Dootone label. The second Dootone single, "Wetback Hop", became the subject of controversy because of the use of the derogatory term for Mexicans in the title. It was an attempt to associate the listener with the earlier success of "Pachuko Hop", which refers to Mexican zoot suiters of the 1940s. After a few sessions for various small labels in 1956, Higgins returned to Combo in 1957 with a mixed-race band that included future Canned Heat member Henry Vestine. "Long Long Time" (Combo 144, 1957) is a fine bluesy recording, featuring Frank Dunn on vocals.
 He died of lung cancer in 1999, leaving behind an estimable body of work, even though he never scored a national hit.

You may listen to "Pachuko Hop" here:

You may listen to "Motorhead Baby" here:


Solely for historical, educational and listening pleasure.

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