Friday, November 28, 2008
William Ballard Doggett was born February 16, 1916 in Philadelphia. At age nine, Doggett wanted to play the trumpet but since his family could not afford one, his mother introduced him to the organ. Four years later, Bill was being hailed as a child prodigy.
When he was fifteen, Bill formed his first combo called "The Five Majors". While attending high school, he found work playing in the pit orchestra at the Nixon Grand theater with the Jimmy Gorman Band. He eventually inherited Gorman's fifteen-piece orchestra at the height of the Big Band Era
After he sold the band to Lucky Millender, he stayed in contact with Millender - writing arrangements and playing piano. Then in late 1942, Doggett joined the Ink Spots and became the group's arranger and pianist. He recorded five singles with them during a two year period before heading out on his own again.
Bill toured and recorded with several of the nation's top singer and bands. Among these were Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Jordan, who became a mentor to Doggett.
In 1949, Bill was a featured performer on piano and many of Jordan's classic Decca recordings including "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and "Blue Light Boogie." Doggett credited his time with Jordan for educating him to the finer points of pleasing an audience.
When Doggett decided to form another combo on his own, he made the most crucial decision of his life. Most musicians of the time felt that the sound of the organ was sacred and should be reserved for a church setting. Bill decided that he needed a fresh sound to set him apart from other piano combos.
This decision led to a recording contract with Cincinnati's King Records. During his first years at King, he released over a dozen singles - most moderate successes not only on the R&B charts but the jazz charts as well.
In 1955, he decided to record a 10" Christmas album called "All-Time Christmas Favorites" (King 295-89). Many people consider this to be the very first R&B Christmas album (anyone got a copy?). Three years later, King expanded to 12" albums and its very first release was a repackage of Doggett's 10" Christmas album - the very album you're looking at.
There are some of the best Christmas tracks anywhere on this album. Doggett alternates between instrumentals and even sings on a few of the songs, adding to its charm.
Judge for yourself:
Bill Doggett - 12 Songs Of Christmas
Doggett remained with King Records until 1960, scoring HUGE hits with "Honky Tonk Pt. 1 & 2" and "Ram-Bunk-Shush" in 1956 and 1957 respectively. He later recorded for Warner Brothers, Columbia, ABC-Paramount and Sue Records throughout the 1960s and 1970s on sporadic singles and albums.
Bill settled into retirement on Long Island, New York in the 1980s and died of a heart attack in 1996.