The Honey Dripper vs. The Honeydripper

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Fri Feb 11 06:51:16 UTC 2005

On Fri, 11 Feb 2005 00:28:18 -0500, Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:

>Don't believe everything that you read. Many sources agree that
>Roosevelt Sykes was the original person to call himself the "Honey
>Dripper" and that his song, "The Honeydripper," was a "cover" of the
>slightly-older and similarly-named "The Honeydripper."
>Apparently, the word "cover" in the relevant sense has changed its
>meaning when I wasn't looking. "Cover" used to mean that the recording
>A by B has been re-recorded by C. In the present case, there is no
>connection between the tune "The Honeydripper" by Joe Liggins and the
>tune "The Honeydripper" by Roosevelt Sykes except for their similar
>titles. Sykes's song in no other way resembles that of Joe Liggins.

Though it's true that many people seem to conflate the two songs,
Roosevelt Sykes didn't help matters much, as he *did* apparently cover the
later song after Liggins had a hit with it in 1945.  From a discussion of
the songs on the BLUES-L listserv:

The hit version was by Joe Liggins on Exclusive in 1945 and I'd guess
that this is the version (or a Specialty recut) in question.
Roosevelt Sykes (who recorded for Decca in the 1930s as The
Honeydripper) did record "The Honey Dripper" in 1936, but it wasn't
the same song.  Around 1945, he took Liggins' hit and added words and
made "The Honeydripper" for Bluebird - on it he referred that he was
"the original honeydripper".

--Ben Zimmer

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