is best known for the R&B hit instrumentals "Who Dun It" and "Gotta Be Funky." The prolific
' first singles, "Go Go Gorilla." A mainstay of the Chicago R&B/soul music scene, he was a producer/arranger/session player at Chess Records during the '60s.
also worked with Three Sounds
, Blue Mitchell
, Junior Wells
, Gene Harris
, Muddy Waters
, Freddy Robinson
, and Etta James
, among others.
The saxman was born Milton Bland
in Menifee, AR, on October 17, 1936. After moving to Chicago, Higgins
started doing sides for George Lerner's One-Derful Records. Later, he began recording for St. Lawrence Records. One of his instrumentals for the label, the cool, funky "Who Dun It," hit number 30 R&B during the summer of 1966. The flip side was the melancholy past-midnight ballad "These Days Are Filled With You."
While at St. Lawrence, he hired his cousin Barbara Acklin
as a secretary. Higgins
recorded a single on her under the name Barbara Allen
for his Special Agent label. Later, Higgins
as a background singer on his Chess Records sessions. Acklin
later hit as a recording artist in the summer of 1968 with "Love Makes a Woman."
In 1969, Higgins
moved to Los Angeles. He arranged and produced acts for United Artists Records, Imperial, and Minit. The multi-talented sax player recorded a few albums for United Artists. The LP Heavyweight (August 1972) included his biggest hit, "Gotta Be Funky" (number 22 R&B). Another UA LP, Monk Higgins
(January 1973), includes "Little Mama." On Buddah Records, Higgins
recorded "Dance to the Disco Sax of Monk Higgins" (December 1974). He's featured on the movie soundtrack and Buddah LP release from the 1975 Pam Grier
/American International film Sheba, Baby. Higgins
collaborated with former Stax Records executive Al Bell
on hits for Bobby Bland
during the '70s and '80s.
In 1983, blues artist Keb Mo
joined his Higgins' Whodunit Band, contributing vocals and guitar as the group performed at Los Angeles-area clubs like Marla's Memory Lane. Keb Mo
credits his time with Higgins
as the most important element in developing his understanding of the blues. During the '90s, Higgins
' music has been sampled by numerous rap artists and is included on various breakbeat compilation CDs.
MCA Records bought the Chess catalog in the mid-'80s from Joe
and Sylvia Robinson
of Sugarhill Records, reissuing many sides that feature Higgins
' contributions. Monk Higgins
died July 3, 1986, in Los Angeles, CA.