Rhino Factoids: Introducing The Honeydrippers
34 years ago today, Robert Plant finally began to shake off some of the depression he’d been feeling in the wake of John Bonham’s death and Led Zeppelin’s dissolution by returning to live performing as the frontman of The Honeydrippers.
Yes, that’s right: the band that brought you the cover of Phil Phillips’ big hit, “Sea of Love.”
The Honeydrippers tend to be remembered predominantly for either “Sea of Love,” which hit #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, or the follow-up, “Rockin’ at Midnight,” which made it to #25, but what’s often forgotten across the mists of time is just how important the band was to bringing Plant back from the abyss. In the wake of Bonham’s death, the former Led Zeppelin frontman was seriously contemplating setting his rock ‘n’ roll career aside and becoming a teacher....and when we say he was seriously contemplating it, we mean that he’d gone so far as to apply for – and was actually accepted! – into a teacher-training program.
Education’s loss proved to be rock’s gain, however, when when guitarist Andi Silvester, late of the band Little Acre, suggested that he might want to do a few back-to-basics shows and just play some good old fashioned R&B. As a result, The Honeydrippers made their debut in Stourbridge on March 9, 1981, with a line-up featuring Plant, Silvester, additional guitarist Robbie Blunt, saxophonist Keith Evans, harmonica player Ricky Cool, bassist Jim Hickman, and drummer Kevin O’Neil.
“Oh, this is only like a rag thing,” Plant told journalist Dave Lewis at the time, sounding like he couldn’t imagine that anyone might possibly find anything of interest in seeing the singer of Led Zeppelin playing R&B covers in small venues. “It all started as an idea to stop boredom setting in on an old dinosaur who was sitting at home not doing a great deal. My pals said, ‘Fancy having a blow?’ So we’ve had 10 blows. We’ve got another five to do, then we’ll revamp the whole thing. Go back to our separate corners (and) have a long farewell, I suppose.”
As it turned out, it was a very long farewell. Plant did indeed set aside The Honeydrippers for a bit after that tour, instead focusing on developing a proper solo career, but after the release of 1982’s Pictures at Eleven and 1983’s The Principle of Moments, his next endeavor turned out to be the Honeydrippers EP, Volume One. As history reveals, there was never to be a Volume Two, but who knows what the future may hold? (You never know what those Zeppelin boys will do next.)