Willie Dixon

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Willie Dixon
Dixon in 1979 in Cary, Illinois at Harry Hopes, Photo: Len Carlson
Dixon in 1979 in Cary, Illinois at Harry Hopes, Photo: Len Carlson
Background information
Birth nameWilliam James Dixon
Born(1915-06-01)June 1, 1915
Vicksburg, Mississippi,US
DiedJanuary 29, 1992(1992-01-29) (aged 76)
Burbank, California, United States
GenresBlues, Chicago blues
Occupation(s)musician, producer, songwriter
Instrumentsupright bass, vocals
Years activelate 1940s - 1992
LabelsChess, Columbia, Bluesville, Checker, Verve, MCA, Legacy, Columbia, Yambo
WebsiteOfficial Homepage Blues Heaven Foundation
Official Homepage

William James "Willie" Dixon (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) was an American blues musician, singer, songwriter and bass player. He was one of the founders of Chicago blues. He wrote a lot of songs which are still standards of Chicago blues. (i.e. "Little Red Rooster", "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Evil", "Spoonful", "Back Door Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "I Ain't Superstitious", "My Babe", "Wang Dang Doodle", and "Bring It On Home") The songs are from the 1950s when Dixon worked as producer for Chess Records. He also played upright bass on many of the label's records.

Life[change | change source]

Dixon was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 1, 1915. He learned the blues during his time on prison farms in Mississippi as an early-teenager. Dixon sang bass for The Jubilee Singers, a local gospel group that was often in the program of the local radio station WQBC. He began to change poems he wrote into songs which he sold to local groups.

1936 he went to Chicago like many others from the Mississippi delta. There he begun boxing and won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937. During his boxing time he met Leonard "Baby Doo" Caston, who convinced him to a musical career. Before the Second World War Dixon sang in different vocal groups. After the war he reunited with Caston and formed the "Big Three Trio".

Dixon signed with Chess Records as a recording artist but soon was involved in the record business. By 1951 he was producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter. 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, and others. By his work with Chuck Berry he was a link between blues and early rock and roll.

From the late 1960s until the middle 1970s, Dixon ran his own record label, Yambo Records. He formed different all star bands which often went on tours in Europe. He also became an advocate for the blues. He founded the Blues Heaven Foundation. The Foundation preserves the blues legacy and secures copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who were often exploited in the past.

In the 1970s and 1980s his health became weaker and weaker because of his diabetes. Dixon died of heart failure in Burbank, California on January 29, 1992.

Honors[change | change source]

  • Blues Hall of Fame (1980)
  • Grammy (1989) for Hidden Charms
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the "early influences" (pre-rock) category (1994)

Discography[change | change source]

Year Title Label Number Comments
1959 Willie's Blues Bluesville BVLP-1003 with Memphis Slim
1960 Blues Every Which Way Verve MGV-3007 with Memphis Slim[1]
1960 Songs of Memphis Slim and "Wee Willie" Dixon Folkways FW-2385 [2]
1962 Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village Gate Folkways FA-2386 live, with guest Pete Seeger
1963 In Paris: Baby Please Come Home! Battle BM-6122 with Memphis Slim, 1962
1970 I Am The Blues Columbia PC-9987 with the Chicago All Stars
1971 Willie Dixon's Peace? Yambo 777-15 with the Chicago All Stars
1973 Catalyst Ovation OVQD-1433 quadraphonic pressing
1976 What Happened To My Blues Ovation OV-1705
1983 Mighty Earthquake and Hurricane Pausa PR-7157
1985 Willie Dixon: Live (Backstage Access) Pausa PR-7183 with Sugar Blue and Clifton James, Montreux 1985
1988 Hidden Charms Bug C1-90593 Grammy-winning album
1988 The Chess Box Chess Records A compilition with Willie Dixons most important songs
1989 Ginger Ale Afternoon Varèse Sarabande VSD-5234 soundtrack for movie of the same name
1990 The Big Three Trio Legacy C-46216 from 1947–1952
1995 The Original Wang Dang Doodle: The Chess Recordings MCA 9353 compilation (some unreleased) from 1954–1990
1996 Crying the Blues: Live in Concert Thunderbolt CDTB-166 live with Johnny Winter & the Chicago All Stars, Houston 1971
1998 Good Advice Wolf 120.700 live with the Chicago All Stars, Long Beach 1991
1998 I Think I Got the Blues Prevue 17
2001 Big Boss Men - Blues Legends of the Sixties Indigo (UK) IGOXCD543 live, Houston 1971-72 (six tracks)

Reading[change | change source]

  • Dixon, Willie; Snowden, Don (1989). I Am the Blues. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80415-8.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Verve Records Discography: 1960". Jazzdisco.org. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  2. "Songs of Memphis Slim and "Wee Willie" Dixon". Smithsonian Folkways. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved January 1, 2010.