By Kenny Young
Robert Plant’s first project after the break up of Led Zeppelin was to scratch his Rhythm & Blues itch. In 1981, he put together a line up of like-minded cats who all shared his love for the roots of Rock-n-Roll called The Honeydrippers. Adding some All-Star talent into the mix like old pals, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, they played one live concert in 1981 at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. Then it seemed, the project was put on the shelf while Plant wrote and recorded his debut solo album Pictures at Eleven (released a year later).
Enter Ahmet Ertegun President of Atlantic Records. He had wanted to record a collection of some of his favorite songs from the 50’s and caught wind of Robert Plant’s Honeydrippers. Fast forward to the Spring of 1984. The Band entered Atlantic Studios in New York City and banged out a five-song EP with some help from Paul Shaffer(of Letterman Band Fame) on keyboards, Nile Rodgers (Chic) guitar and production plus a top-notch horn section to boot. Page and Beck would split recording time on the tracks with some additional overdubs done in London.
The Honeydrippers : Volume One was finally released in November of 1984 with “Rockin’ at Midnight” as the lead single. It was a remake of the Roy Brown classic from the late 40’s. Ironically, and to Robert Plant’s surprise, the B-Side to the single, “Sea of Love” started to get more airplay and eventually made it to #3 on the Billboard Charts.
When it came time to promote the album the band agreed to perform on Saturday Night Live on this very date, December 15th, 1984. Plant saw this as an opportunity to prove he could still rock so they performed “Rockin’ at Midnight” and “Santa Claus is Back in Town” with guitarist Brian Setzer joining in.
Below is a grainy clip of some of that performance.
Kenny Young can be heard weeknights from 7pm until midnight on Boston’s Classic Rock, 100.7 WZLX. Follow him on Twitter (@KennyYoungZLX) and like him on Facebook. Stream WZLX anywhere you go with the free Radio.com app for iOS and Android devices.