Bill Doggett Biography
William Ballard Doggett, widely known as Bill Doggett, was an American pianist and organist who specialized in jazz and rhythm & blues. He collaborated with the Ink Spots, Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Jordan, and was best known for his instrumental rock songs “Honky Tonk” and “Hippy Dippy.
Despite receiving numerous requests to perform in rock & roll clubs around the country, Doggett stayed committed to the jazz and organ-based R&B that he had been performing since the 1930s. He recorded for Warner Brothers, Columbia, ABC-Paramount, and Sue after continuing to record for the Cincinnati-based King label until 1960. In 1995, he recorded as a member and producer of Bluesiana Hurricane, an all-star jazz/R&B ensemble.
On February 16, 1916, Doggett was born in Philadelphia. As a child, Doggett suffered with poverty. His family couldn’t afford lessons when he first wanted to learn to play the trumpet. His mother (a church pianist) persuaded him to try keyboards instead, and he quickly learned the instrument. By the age of 15, he had founded his first band, the Five Majors, and was hailed as a child genius.
While still in high school, Doggett was a member of the Jimmy Gorman Band, the pit orchestra at the Nixon Grand Theater. In 1938, he became the group’s leader. However, Doggett’s time with the orchestra was brief, as he sold it to Lucky Millinder, with whom he worked intermittently for the following four years. In 1939, he made his debut on Millinder’s songs “Little Old Lady From Baltimore” and “All Aboard.” He also collaborated with Frank Fairfax and Jimmy Mundy, an arranger.
Doggett continued to work mostly as a sideman despite forming a short-lived ensemble with Benny Goodman’s arranger, Jimmy Mundy, in late 1939. He went on to create tunes for Count Basie’s band and tour and/or record with Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton after playing piano and arranging with the Ink Spots from 1942 to 1944. He appeared on the popular compositions “Saturday Night Fish Fry” and “Blue Light Boogie” after replacing Wild Bill Davis in Louis Jordan’s band in 1947.
During Ella Fitzgerald’s recording sessions in June 1951, he made his debut as an organist. Doggett put together his own band and signed with King Records. His best-known recording is “Honky Tonk,” a rhythm and blues song from 1956 that sold four million copies and was co-written by Billy Butler. For nearly two months, the song topped the Billboard R&B chart in the United States. Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lionel Hampton were among the bandleaders and performers he arranged for.
Doggett debuted his own organ-led combo at the Baby Grand in New York in June 1952, and went on to record more than a dozen singles before hitting gold with “Honky Tonk” four years later.
Bill Doggett had a total of 5 hits on the Billboard 100 chart, and he had 4 songs that made it to the Top 40 of the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Billboard chart, with the song “Hold It” topping the list as no.3 and remaining 15 weeks on the chart.
Doggett, a longtime Long Island resident, died three days after suffering a heart attack on November 13, 1996.
Bill Doggett Discography
Frequently Asked Questions
William Ballard Doggett was an American jazz and rhythm and blues pianist and organist.
What Year Did Honky Tonk By Bill Doggett Come Out?
What Instrument Did Bill Doggett Play?
Bill Doggett played the piano.
What Was Bill Doggett’s Greatest Hits?
Bill Doggett’s greatest hits include “Honky Tonk,” “Slow Walk,” and “Ram-Bunk-Shush.” He was an extremely popular R&B artist in the 1950s, and his music still has a devoted following today.