Bill Doggett - Honky Tonk

First performance: 16/07/1978


Bruce reportedly covered the song back in 1965 with his early band The Castiles but as far as it's known for sure, Bruce covered the song only once and once as a snippet:
1978-07-16 Municipal Auditorium, New Orleans, LA

An attendee recalls that "the show started about forty minutes late because the stage motor burned out and they couldn't move the stage back so some people didn't have seats. They were offered their money back but wanted to stay. Bruce came out and apologized for the delay and said he and the band would try to make up for it with the show. THEY DID! To this day, still the best I ever saw." Show includes a tour one-off, instrumental version of the song "Honky Tonk" which was originally a #2 record for Bill Doggett in 1956. According to historian Priore, this was the first rock 'n' roll instrumental hit, and the Beach Boys were the first, and one of the only, surf bands to cover it. "Growin' Up" features the goddamn guitar story. "Fire" is dropped for the first confirmed time on the tour. A newspaper review of the August shows in New York City states that "Heartbreak Hotel" was played tonight: "You never see the same show twice. He's got a limitless repertoire. When he played New Orleans, something happened with the sound system. So they all got out from behind their instruments and they all sang "Heartbreak Hotel" spontaneously." Unfortunately this event cannot be corroborated by the audience recording. Billboard magazine reported an attendance of 5,000 (a sellout) and gross receipts of $35,644. 
  • Snippet
2021-03-01 Stone Hill Farm, Colts Neck, NJ
Former President Barack Obama talks again with his friend Bruce Springsteen on an eight-episode podcast series, Renegades: Born In The U.S.A., exclusively for Spotify. On this date, the third episode is made available: "Amazing Grace: American Music". They talk about popular music, the most American of art forms. The episode opens with a brief joint performance of "Farther Up The Road"; later, Bruce plays brief snippets of "Honky Tonk" and "Twist And Shout" and President Obama tells the story behind one of his most famous speeches.


"Honky Tonk" is a rhythm and blues instrumental written by Billy Butler, Bill Doggett, Clifford Scott, and Shep Shepherd. Doggett recorded it as a two-part single in 1956 It peaked at number two for three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the biggest R&B hit of the year, spending thirteen non-consecutive weeks at the top of the charts."Honky Tonk" became Doggett's signature piece and an R&B standard recorded by many other performers. According to historian Priore, this was the first rock 'n' roll instrumental hit. 

Bruce on the artist

2023-10-09 SiriusXM Studio, New York City, NY

Bruce played the song during The 'From My Home to Yours' series, returning for the first time since 2021, with Episode 30, featuring Bruce and high school friends and surviving members of the early Freehold rock and roll scene Craig Caprioni, Mike Domanski, Donnie Powell, and Mike Wilson discussing the music they listened to in those mid-'60s days.

to Donnie Powell: "We were a two-piece band like The White Stripes, except we sucked. (everyone laughs) But the first night I came over, the thing I remember the most was YOU taught ME … he’s the drummer, but you taught me “Honky Tonk” on the guitar. It was the first thing every guitar player learned to play. Let’s hear a little bit of Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk.” - “Honky Tonk,” Bill Doggett. Beginners, get out there and learn that song!