Doggett, Bill (actually, William Ballard)

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Doggett, Bill (actually, William Ballard)

Doggett, Bill (actually, William Ballard), jazz/R&B pianist, organist, arranger; b. Philadelphia, Pa., Feb. 16,1916; d. N.Y., Nov. 13,1996. He played with the Jimmy Gorham Band from the mid-1930s. In 1938 he formed his own band with several of his colleagues; Lucky Millinder fronted the band for a 1938 tour (Doggett reputedly traded the entire outfit to Millinder for a soda). He played with Lucky Millinder until joining Jimmy Mundy in late 1939; in 1940 he returned to Millinder’s band, and remained there until 1942. From the summer of 1942, he spent two years as pianist-arranger with The Ink Spots, and also arranged for Lionel Hampton, Count Basic, and the Louis Armstrong Big Band, among others. He was with Willie Bryant (1946) and with Louis Jordan from 1948. From 1951 he specialized on organ, leading his own small combo with great success throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His R&B combo signed with King in Cincinnati around 1953, churning out a slew of sizzling instrumentals, including one of the biggest-sellers of all time in 1956: the two-part “Honky Tonk,” with Clifford Scott on tenor sax, guitar by Billy Butler linking choruses, and Doggett playing a boogie woogie-like slow shuffle on the organ. It was in the Top Ten in the U.S. for 14 weeks, and hit #1 on the R&B chart. Other hits were “Ram-Bunk-Shush” in 1957 and “Leaps and Bounds” in 1958 and the often-covered “Hold It.” He scored seven Hot 100 hits until 1960, including “Slow Walk” (Sil Austin also had an R&B hit with this number). He arranged and conducted the album Rhythm Is Our Business for Ella Fitzgerald on Verve in 1963. That same year he toured France. He continued to tour and record through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.


His Organ and Combo (1955); His Organ and Combo, Vol. 2 (1955); Everybody Dance to the Honky Tonk (1956); Hot Doggett (1957); Salute to Ellington (1958); On Tour (1959); Bill Doggett Swings (1962); Impressions (1963); Honky Tonk Ala Mode (1966); Hampton, Lionel Presents B.D. (1977); Mr. Honky Tonk (1985).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz Music Master Jazz and Blues Catalogue/Lewis Porter