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Willie Dixon


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Dixon
Updated: 2017-09-03T20:29Z
Willie Dixon
Willie Dixon 1979.jpg
Dixon at Harry Hope's in Cary, Illinois, 1979
Background information
Birth nameWilliam James Dixon
Born(1915-07-01)July 1, 1915
Vicksburg, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 1992(1992-01-29) (aged 76)
Burbank, California, buried: Burr Oak Cemetery[1]
GenresBlues, rock and roll, Chicago blues, jump blues, rhythm and blues, gospel
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, arranger, record producer, boxer
InstrumentsVocals, double bass, guitar
Years active1939–1992
LabelsChess, Cobra, Columbia, Bluesville, Checker, Verve, MCA, Legacy, Columbia, Yambo
Associated actsBig Three Trio, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Lowell Fulson, Sonny Boy Williamson, Chuck Berry, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Junior Wells, Otis Spann
Websitewww.willie-dixon.com

William James "Willie" Dixon (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) was an American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer.[2] He was proficient in playing both the upright bass and the guitar and was a capable singer, but he is perhaps best known as one of the most prolific songwriters of his time. Next to Muddy Waters, Dixon is recognized as the most influential person in shaping the post–World War II sound of the Chicago blues.[3]

Dixon's songs have been recorded by countless musicians in many genres as well as by various ensembles in which he participated. A short list of his most famous compositions includes "Hoochie Coochie Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "Little Red Rooster", "My Babe", "Spoonful", and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover". These songs were written during the peak years of Chess Records, from 1950 to 1965, and were performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and Bo Diddley; they influenced a generation of musicians worldwide.[4]

Dixon also was an important link between the blues and rock and roll, working with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley in the late 1950s. His songs have been covered by some of the biggest artists of more recent times, such as Cream, Jeff Beck, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix. The debut albums by the first six of those artists all feature at least one of his songs, a measure of his influence on rock music.

He received a Grammy Award and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Biography

Dixon at Monterey Jazz Festival, 1981

Early life

Dixon was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 1, 1915.[2] His mother, Daisy, often rhymed things she said, a habit her son imitated. At the age of seven, young Dixon became an admirer of a band that featured pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He sang his first song at Springfield Baptist Church at the age of four[5] Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as a young teenager. Later in his teens, he learned how to sing harmony from a local carpenter, Theo Phelps, who led a gospel quintet, the Union Jubilee Singers, in which Dixon sang bass; the group regularly performed on the Vicksburg radio station WQBC.[6] He began adapting his poems into songs and even sold some to local music groups.

Adulthood

Dixon left Mississippi for Chicago in 1936. A man of considerable stature, standing 6 and a half feet tall and weighing over 250 pounds, he took up boxing, at which he was successful, winning the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937.[7] He became a professional boxer and worked briefly as Joe Louis's sparring partner, but after four fights he left boxing in a dispute with his manager over money.

Dixon met Leonard Caston at a boxing gym, where they would harmonize at times. Dixon performed in several vocal groups in Chicago, but it was Caston that persuaded him to pursue music seriously.[8] Caston built him his first bass, made of a tin can and one string. Dixon's experience singing bass made the instrument familiar.[5] He also learned to play the guitar.

In 1939, Dixon was a founding member of the Five Breezes, with Caston, Joe Bell, Gene Gilmore and Willie Hawthorne. The group blended blues, jazz, and vocal harmonies, in the mode of the Ink Spots. Dixon's progress on the upright bass came to an abrupt halt with the advent of World War II, when he refused induction into military service as a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for ten months.[2] He refused to go to war because he would not fight for a nation in which institutionalized racism and racist laws were prevalent.[9] After the war, he formed a group named the Four Jumps of Jive. He then reunited with Caston, forming the Big Three Trio, which went on to record for Columbia Records.

Pinnacle of career

Dixon (right), with his friend Joe Louis Walker

Dixon signed with Chess Records as a recording artist, but he began performing less, being more involved with administrative tasks for the label. By 1951, he was a full-time employee at Chess, where he acted as producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter. He was also a producer for the Chess subsidiary Checker Records. His relationship with Chess was sometimes strained, but he stayed with the label from 1948 to the early 1960s. During this time Dixon's output and influence were prodigious. From late 1956 to early 1959, he worked in a similar capacity for Cobra Records, for which he produced early singles for Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy.[10] He later recorded for Bluesville Records.[11] From the late 1960s until the mid-1970s, Dixon ran his own record label, Yambo Records, and two subsidiary labels, Supreme and Spoonful. He released his 1971 album, Peace?, on Yambo and also singles by McKinley Mitchell, Lucky Peterson and others.[12]

Dixon is considered one of the key figures in the creation of Chicago blues. He worked with Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush, Bo Diddley, Joe Louis Walker, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor, Little Milton, Eddie Boyd, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lowell Fulson, Willie Mabon, Memphis Slim, Washboard Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Sam Lay and others.

In December 1964, the Rolling Stones reached number 1 on the UK Singles Chart with their cover of Dixon's "Little Red Rooster".[13] In the same year, the group also covered "I Just Want To Make Love To You" on their debut album, The Rolling Stones.

Copyright battles

In his later years, Dixon became a tireless ambassador for the blues and a vocal advocate for its practitioners, founding the Blues Heaven Foundation, which works to preserve the legacy of the blues and to secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who were exploited in the past. Speaking with the simple eloquence that was a hallmark of his songs, Dixon claimed, "The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits. It's better keeping the roots alive, because it means better fruits from now on. The blues are the roots of all American music. As long as American music survives, so will the blues." In 1977, unhappy with the small royalties paid by Chess's publishing company, Arc Music, Dixon and Muddy Waters sued Arc and, with the proceeds from the settlement, founded their own publishing company, Hoochie Coochie Music.[14]

In 1987, Dixon reached an out-of-court settlement with the rock band Led Zeppelin after suing for plagiarism in the band's use of his music in "Bring It On Home" and lyrics from his composition "You Need Love" (1962) in the band's recording of "Whole Lotta Love".[15]

Dixon's health increasingly deteriorated during the 1970s and the 1980s, primarily as a result of long-term diabetes. Eventually one of his legs was amputated.[2]

Dixon was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, in the inaugural session of the Blues Foundation's ceremony.[16] In 1989 he received a Grammy Award for his album Hidden Charms.[17]

Death and legacy

Dixon died of heart failure[18] on January 29, 1992, in Burbank, California,[2] and was buried in Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois. After his death, his widow, Marie Dixon, took over the Blues Heaven Foundation and moved the headquarters to Chess Records.[19] Dixon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the category Early Influences (pre-rock) in 1994.[20] On April 28, 2013, both Dixon and his grandson Alex Dixon were inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.[21]

The actor and comedian Cedric the Entertainer portrayed Dixon in Cadillac Records, a 2008 film based on the early history of Chess Records.[22][23]

Tributes

Discography

Albums

YearTitleLabelNumberComments
1959Willie's BluesBluesvilleBVLP-1003With Memphis Slim
1960Blues Every Which WayVerveMGV-3007With Memphis Slim[24]
1960Songs of Memphis Slim and "Wee Willie" Dixon[25]FolkwaysFW-2385
1962Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village GateFolkwaysFA-2386Live, with Pete Seeger
1963In Paris: Baby Please Come Home!BattleBM-6122With Memphis Slim, 1962
1970I Am the BluesColumbiaPC-9987With the Chicago All Stars; also released on DVD, 2003
1971Willie Dixon's Peace?Yambo777-15With the Chicago All Stars
1973CatalystOvationOVQD-1433Quadraphonic pressing
1976What Happened to My BluesOvationOV-1705
1983Mighty Earthquake and HurricanePausaPR-7157
1985Willie Dixon: Live (Backstage Access)PausaPR-7183With Sugar Blue and Clifton James, Montreux, 1985
1988Hidden CharmsBugC1-90593Grammy-winning album
1989Ginger Ale AfternoonVarèse SarabandeVSD-5234Soundtrack for movie of the same name
1990The Big Three TrioLegacyC-46216Recorded 1947–1952
1993Willie Dixon's Blues DixonaryRootsRTS 33046EAN: 8712177013760
1995The Original Wang Dang Doodle: The Chess RecordingsMCA9353Compilation of recordings (some previously unreleased) from 1954 to 1990
1996Crying the Blues: Live in ConcertThunderboltCDTB-166Live, with Johnny Winter and the Chicago All Stars, Houston, 1971
1998Good AdviceWolf120,700Live, with the Chicago All Stars, Long Beach, 1991
1998I Think I Got the BluesPrevue17
2001Big Boss Men: Blues Legends of the SixtiesIndigo (UK)IGOXCD543Live, Houston, 1971–72 (six tracks)
2008Giant of the BluesBlues Boulevard Records250196EAN: 5413992501960

As sideman

Dixon's contribution as a bass player span over many decades and genres, though he sometimes participated also on guitar, vocals as well as a producer.[26]

With Chuck Berry

With Bo Diddley

With Fleetwood Mac and "Chicago Blues artists" (including Otis Spann and Buddy Guy)

With Dale Hawkins

  • Oh! Suzy-Q (1958)

With Howlin' Wolf

With Sam Lazar

With J.B. Lenoir

  • Natural Man (1968)

With Little Walter

  • Little Walter (1964)
  • Hate to See You Go (1969)

With Jimmy Reed

With Jimmy Rogers

With Johnny Shines

  • Last Night's Dream (Warner Bros., 1968)

With Koko Taylor

  • Koko Taylor (Chess, 1969)

With Muddy Waters

With Junior Wells

  • In My Younger Days (1972)

With Big Joe Williams

  • Nine String Guitar Blues (1961, later re-released as Walking Blues)
  • Studio Blues (1964)

With Sonny Boy Williamson

With Johnny Winter

See also

References

  1. ^ Acacia Lawn, lot 18, grave 1, Burr Oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3rd ed.). 2 (Kindle location 12459). McFarland & Company. Kindle edition.
  2. ^ a b c d e Eder, Bruce. "Willie Dixon: Biography, Credits, Discography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2013-03-13. 
  3. ^ Trager, Oliver (2004). Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia. Billboard Books. pp. 298–299. ISBN 0-8230-7974-0.
  4. ^ Dicaire, David (1999). Blues Singers: Biographies of 50 Legendary Artists of the Early 20th Century. McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 0-7864-0606-2.
  5. ^ a b Long, Worth (1995). "The Wisdom of the Blues—Defining Blues as the True Facts of Life: An Interview with Willie Dixon." African American Review 29.2. pp. 207–212. JSTOR. Web. October 2, 2015.
  6. ^ Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1990). I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Boston: Da Capo Press. pp. 25, 34. ISBN 0306804158, ISBN 9780306804151.
  7. ^ Snowden, Don (1997).
  8. ^ Eder, Bruce (2010). "Leonard Caston". Biography of Leonard Caston. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  9. ^ Baird, Jim (2014). "Book Review: Willie Dixon: Preacher of the Blues." Journal of American Folklore 127: 100–101. ProQuest.Web. October 3, 2015.
  10. ^ Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1990). I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Boston: Da Capo Press. pp. 103–112. ISBN 0-306-80415-8. 
  11. ^ "Prestige Bluesville Discography". Wirz.de. Retrieved 2006-11-17. 
  12. ^ Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1990). I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Boston: Da Capo Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-306-80415-8. 
  13. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 458. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  14. ^ Inaba, Mitsutoshi (2010). Willie Dixon: Preacher of the Blues. Scarecrow Press. p. 67. ISBN 0-8108-6993-4.
  15. ^ Inaba, Mitsutoshi (2010). Willie Dixon: Preacher of the Blues. Scarecrow Press. p. 197. ISBN 0-8108-6993-4.
  16. ^ "1980 Hall of Fame Inductees". Blues Foundation. Blues.org. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  17. ^ "Willie Dixon Timeline". Chicago: Blues Heaven Foundation. BluesHeaven.com. 2007. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  18. ^ Doc Rock. "Dead Rock Stars Club 1992". TheDeadRockStarsClub.com. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  19. ^ Barretta, Scott (2008). "Voices from Chicago: Jackie Dixon." Living Blues 05: 38–39. ProQuest. Web. October 3, 2015.
  20. ^ Rule, Sheila (January 20, 1994). "Rock Greats Hail, Hail Their Own at Spirited Hall of Fame Ceremony". New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2008.
  21. ^ "2013 Chicago Blues Hall of Fame". Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  22. ^ Simmons, Leslie (January 22, 2008). "Brody, Wright Join Musical Chess Club". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  23. ^ Mayberry, Carly (February 12, 2008). "Alessandro Nivola to Play Blues Mogul in 'Chess'". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-01-25. 
  24. ^ "Verve Records Discography: 1960". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  25. ^ Songs of Memphis Slim and "Wee Willie" Dixon. Folkways Records. Smithsonian Institution. Folkways.si.edu. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  26. ^ "allmusic.com credit entry". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2017-06-20. 

Further reading

  • Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1990). I Am the Blues: The Willie Dixon Story. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-7043-0253-5.
  • Dixon, Willie (1992). Willie Dixon: Master Blues Composer, with Notes and Tablature. Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-7935-0305-1.
  • Inaba, Mitsutoshi (2011). Willie Dixon: Preacher of the Blues. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6993-6.
  • Snowden, Don (1997). "Willie Dixon". CD booklet. The Chess Box. MCA Records.

External links

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