For a limited time, annual subscribers receive a special cultural package:
One free ticket to every Arkansas Symphony Orchestra regular season concert
Four tickets to the Little Rock Zoo
Three tickets to the Museum of Discovery
Two tickets to the Arkansas Arts Center's Children's Theatre, a value of $25.
plus subscriber benefits
Unlimited access to the Arkansas Blog
Unlimited access to Rock Candy, the food and culture blog
Unlimited access to cover stories, dining reviews and digital archives
10% off Arkansas Times events like Pig & Swig, Margaritafest and Whole Hog Roast
Because I couldn't find one anywhere else, here is a mix highlighting the best (or so) of the Arkansas funk legend Monk Higgins, born Milton Bland in Menifee in October 1936. He worked as a social worker, a music teacher, and making his way to Chicago and later L.A., he arranged and produced records for labels like Chess, Onderful, St. Lawrence, MCA, United Artists and, eventually, his own label, Almon. He produced singles by Etta James, Muddy Waters, Bobby 'Blue' Bland (no relation) and hundreds of others, including several albums by Blood, Sweat and Tears. As a solo artist, he released records with titles like "Extra Soul Perception," "Little Mama," "Heavyweight" and "Dance to the Disco Sax of Monk Higgins."
He made it to #30 on the R&B charts with an instrumental called "Who Dun It?" and hit #22 with "Gotta Be Funky." He scored commercials, radio shows and led the in-house band of a club run by Marla Biggs (best known for playing Florence in "The Jeffersons"). His wife's name was Virginia, but he called her Vee Pea — they wrote songs together. He also wrote and recorded the soundtrack to the 1975 Pam Grier film, "Sheba, Baby," in which she chased down Kentucky gangsters on a jet-ski (Tagline: "When you're after the top banana, you peel off the skin").
In 1976, when Al Bell wanted to recreate some of of the success he'd had with Stax (recently closed by court order) with a new record label called Independent Corp. of America, he picked fellow Arkansas-native Higgins as his head of production. At the time, Higgins' plan was record R&B records to be immediately followed by gospel records "by the same artist," in an attempt to "capture both the rock and gospel audiences with the same artist." He also intended to compose a musical adaption of a book called "How To Pick A Lover."
It didn't pan out. His greatest claim to crate-digging posterity today is a drum break from his 1974 song "One Man Band (Plays All Alone)." It made it on an "Ultimate Breaks and Beats" compilation and was sampled by Biz Markie, Gang Starr, Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane and The D.O.C. Higgins died in California in 1986, presumably before ever hearing anyone rap over his drums on KDAY.