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Chuck Higgins & His Mellotones

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Biography

Chuck Higgins (Charles Williams Higgins, April 17, 1924, Gary, Indiana - September 14, 1999, Los Angeles, California) was an American saxophonist.

Higgins, who was noted for mixing elements of Latin Jazz with Blues, recorded in Los Angeles during the mid-fifties, notably for the Specialty, Combo and Doo-Tone labels, and is best remembered for the song “Pachuko Hop”.

Higgins relocated from Gary to Los Angeles in his teens, where he played trumpet and went to school at the Los Angeles Conservatory. Later switching to saxophone, he penned the single “Pachuko Hop” (1952), which became popular among American Latinos on the West Coast. The “Pachuko Hop” single’s B-side, “Motorhead Baby”, was the inspiration for the nickname of musician Motorhead Sherwood, who played with Frank Zappa. The song “Pachuko Hop” is also referenced in the lyrics to the songs “Jelly Roll Gum Drop” on Zappa’s album Cruising with Ruben & the Jets (1968) and “Debra Kadabra” by Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart on their collaborative album Bongo Fury (1975). 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.

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