Zappa listed Chuck Higgins as a reference in his influence list accompanying his album Freak Out! (1966). The 1955 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. The song appears on the 1996 Rocket Sixty-Nine release Jump Shot!. Higgins also played as a sideman with Charlie Parker and with The Orioles, among others, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson played in Higgins's band for a short time.
He recorded for Aladdin Records, Caddy Records, Lucky Records, Specialty Records, and Dootone Records, achieving regional success into the 1960s. In the middle of the 1960s he left active performance to become a teacher, though in the 1970s he recorded a few songs in the disco style. Later that decade and into the 1980s he returned to 1950s-style R&B, touring California clubs as well as England. Some of Higgins's back catalogue was released on reissue labels in the 1990s and 2000s. Higgins died of lung cancer in 1999 in Los Angeles, California. Saxophonist Chuck Higgins recorded on the Dootone label out of Los Angeles.
His best known hit was "Pachuko Hop," recorded in 1952, which features a memorably high, squealing sax solo. The b-side of the record was "Motor Head Baby," which inspired the nickname of James "Motorhead" Sherwood, who played with Frank Zappa. Higgins retired from performing in the 1960's to teach music in the L.A. area, and later attempted a disco-era comeback, which proved unsuccessful.
In the late '70's and early '80's, he returned to his original R & B style and found new fame in Europe. A compilation of Chuck's early hits was released in 2005 with the title "Chuck Higgins Flips His Wig." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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