The age old question when it comes to an artist’s output is just how much of it is intended to advance their career and how much is simply intended to keep them busy.

The latter is usually housed under the term “filler”… two or three tracks on a full length album and in the singles era a handful of B-sides each year.

But no artist should ever want to simply throw away a chance to make an impression on listeners, especially when they have so few opportunities to do so in the big scheme of things.

Therefore if an artist can use this filler to showcase something that casts them in a good light, even if there’s not much strenuous effort or originality shown, then it’s possible they may be able to get something out of it.


Twice Moore
If you’re the kind who looks for such things, it probably caught your eye that this was one of the few Jimmy Liggins songs we’ve come across where Jimmy Liggins was not the songwriter.

Instead it’s credited to the Moore brothers, Oscar and Johnny, quite famous guitarists who were now working together in Johnny’s group The Three Blazers, after Oscar’s long stint with Nat Cole came to an end.

They cut their original version of this song in 1949 and it was somewhat atypical for them, as it was more of an uptempo instrumental rather than the slow cocktail blues vocal records they specialized in.

That makes it maybe a little more understandable why Jimmy Liggins would tackle Shuffle Shuck a year later, but not all THAT much more sensible, for it was still a left field choice compared to his usual brand of music. Besides, it’s not as if Moore’s record had been a hit which would mean they were counting on the song’s name recognition to sell theirs.

Instead it seems as if they were just casting about for material to use as potential B-sides and since the top-side, I Want My Baby For Christmas, was going to have a limited window for sales due to its subject, this song meant they weren’t wasting something better to pair with it in the process.

But that said it still would be interesting to see how they tackled this – either a straight cover or something where they could add some of their own personality to the song.

From A Cocktail Lounge To The Dive Bar
The original by Moore’s group is similar in structure but far different sounding than Liggins’ remake due to their differing personnel.

The Three Blazers were comprised of both Moores on guitar along with a bass and pianist and as a result it’s the piano carrying the main melody on it, playing a rolling bassline while his right sets a pretty good groove. The guitars then play some light-fingered solos, sharp in their tones but mellow in style.

It’s a good record, especially the first half, featuring solid musicianship, but it tends to get a little tedious after awhile and their shouts of the title line down the stretch aren’t able to stir your passions quite as much as they intended. But as a change of pace in The Three Blazers catalog it’s not bad.

Liggins however decides not to treat Shuffle Shuck as a change of pace for his own typical approach, as he might’ve done had he more faithfully followed their arrangement and used his own under-utilized guitar skills as a selling point.

Instead they add their vaunted horn section – studio cats and band members sharing space with producer Maxwell Davis himself on lead saxophone – and as a result, though it definitely is an upgrade over the Moore original especially for us in the rock kingdom, it also becomes rather predictable for Liggins’s followers who are used to such approaches on the majority of his records.


Shuck And Jive
The Liggins rendition kicks off the same way, with the band shouting the indecipherable title as if it actually had some meaning, before the piano of Bo Cyphers picks up the melody. So far there’s not much difference between the two other than perhaps a little more rowdy enthusiasm here in the vocals.

But then the horns take over as the piano recedes to the background and that’s when this version of Shuffle Shuck takes on more rock oriented characteristics, their riffs taken at a much faster clip than the piano of Moore’s record.

The drummer is keeping pace as Davis steps out front for his part as the other horns continue to ride shotgun and the effect is pretty invigorating. It’s not on par with the most frantic rock instrumentals by any means, but it’s definitely leaning more in that direction than what Johnny Moore envisioned it being.

In many ways this is a Maxwell Davis record far more than it is Liggins, whose guitar, if it’s even present, is muted and never gets a single solo of its own. Considering the source material had extended showcases for the instrument this is something of a missed opportunity if you were looking to give him a chance to shine.

Cyphers’ piano, the unnamed but highly energetic drummer, and the other horns, whoever they’re comprised of this time around, pick up the slack however and are running on some high octane fuel without ever fully losing control. It may not ever turn into something truly memorable but it’s hardly easily forgettable either.


Aww Shucks
All things considered – save for not getting Liggins or Davis the songwriting royalties – this accomplished what it set out to do, which was provide a nice contrast to the slower vocal top-side and give some idea of what the band could do.

That it was probably more session players than the reconstituted Drops Of Joy was hardly their concern provided Shuffle Shuck got you to the club when Liggins and company rolled into town.

You wonder if they might’ve come up with something original to achieve the same goal, but while this is more or less a minor footnote in Liggins’s career it’s not something to be dismissed outright just for taking a short cut.

Good records, whatever their source, are always worth the effort and though it might’ve been conceived to merely fill the gap between new songs on his releases, the end result won’t draw many complaints.


(Visit the Artist page of Jimmy Liggins for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)