(U.S 1984 - 1985)
Originally formed in Worcestershire by Robert Plant, the Honeydrippers was also composed of fellow former Led Zeppelin member Jimmy Page; Jeff Beck (a former Yardbirds member like Page); close friend Robbie Blunt and others.
The band released only one recording, a 12" E.P entitled 'The Honeydrippers: Volume One', on the 12th November 1984. They performed in a concert at Keele University in 1981. The Honeydrippers peaked at number 3 in early 1985 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a remake of the Phil Phillips' tune "Sea of Love", and hit number 25 with "Rockin' at Midnight", originally a Roy Brown recording and a rewrite of "Good Rockin' Tonight."
With the 12" EP's success, Plant stated that a full album would be recorded, but it never was. The band appeared on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1984, performing "Rockin' at Midnight" and "Santa Claus Is Back in Town." The band featured Brian Setzer and George Wadenius on guitar, Tom Barney on bass, Paul Shaffer on piano, Buddy Williams on drums, Michael Brecker, Lou Marini, and Ronnie Cuber on saxophones, Jon Faddis on trumpet and Tom Malone on trombone.On 23 December 2006, Plant performed a charity show at Kidderminster Town Hall under the title 'The Return of the Honeydrippers' to raise money for his neighbour Jackie Jennings, who was undergoing treatment for a brain tumor. [extract from live.wdrv.com]
Once you’ve been to the mountaintop, where can you go for a follow-up? That’s the question the surviving members of Led Zeppelin had to ask themselves when they disbanded following drummer John Bonham’s death in 1980. After you’ve become the biggest band in the world, defining over-the-top rock stardom, what do you do next?
For a hot minute, it looked like the band’s front line might merge with the rhythm section of another iconic ‘70s band that had come to a fork in the road. Jimmy Page was cozying up to bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White of Yes in a band tentatively dubbed XYZ (for Ex-Yes and Zeppelin, of course) – and he wanted Robert Plant to join in.
Now, these weren’t the Honeydrippers that most of the world would come to know through the 1984 album Honeydrippers Vol. 1, which contained two Top 40 hits. That all-star outfit – which featured Plant, Page, Jeff Beck, Paul Shaffer and other heavyweights – came into existence at the behest of Atlantic Records chief Ahmet Ertegun, who had caught a concert by the short-lived, considerably less star-studded 1981 lineup.
Reeling from both the death of his longtime friend Bonham, with whom he’d played in the Band of Joy before Led Zeppelin, Plant sought out a place of comfort, both musically and personally. In order to escape his recent past he pursued a more distant, almost mythological past. He began convening with musicians he’d known since he was a schoolboy hanging around Midlands blues clubs, and together they proceeded to jam on the kind of early rock & roll/R&B tunes that Plant loved when he was a kid.
The man who had become an avatar of everything larger-than-life in the ‘70s rock scene was now engaging in a shocking about-face. Ironically, Plant shook off the psychological shackles of the last decade by returning to the same well of post-World War II American music that inspired Led Zeppelin, but instead of amping those sounds up to gargantuan stature, he and his Honeydrippers – whose name came from either from the nickname of bluesman Roosevelt Sykes or the song and backing band of ‘40s R&B star Joe Liggins, depending on who you ask – stuck to the material’s original sonic dimensions.
Plant and his pals worked up a rootsy repertoire that encompassed not only rockabilly romps like Gene Vincent’s “She She Little Sheila,” Carl Perkins’ “Your True Love,” and the Elvis Presley classic “Little Sister,” but old-school R&B wailers like Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford’s “I Need Your Loving,” blues stompers like Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and Lazy Lester’s “Sugar Coated Love,” and even the Western swing standard “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” And when it was time to take it on the road, the Honeydrippers’ modus operandi was just as lean as their sound.
Even Plant’s long, curly locks (surely one of the most legendary heads of hair in rock history) had gone under the chopper. Granted, he wasn’t sporting a crew cut or spiky New Wave ‘do, but the sweeping changes he was instituting to put the past behind him clearly extended all the way to his stylist. And in rock ‘n’ roll, of course, image counts as much as anything – maybe even more.