WHO IS WILLIAM DIXON?
William James “Willie” Dixon was one of the most well –known American blues singer and songwriter. He also worked as an arranger and record producer during his lifetime. As a Grammy Awardee, the singer was a very skilled player of upright bass and guitar. He had also gained fame as one of the most influential people in the world of Chicago blues after World War II.
Some of the most famous songs that William Dixon wrote are “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“. Aside from being well-known as William Dixon’s compositions, these songs have been recorded by famous blues artists including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Bo Diddley who in turn, had all become influential to a number of musicians. Other famous musicians who covered Dixon’s songs include Cream, Jeff Beck, the Doors, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix.
THE LIFE OF WILLIAM DIXON
William Dixon originated from Vicksburg, Mississippi. When he was just seven years old, he became an avid fan of a band that included Little Brother Montgomery. While on prison farms, he became acquainted with blues music and afterwards, he became a member of The Jubilee Singers, a group of gospel singers that regularly performed for a radio station in their town. It was then that Dixon started adding tunes to the poems that he wrote.
In 1936, Dixon left Mississippi and headed out for Illinois to start a career in boxing. He was very fortunate to win the Golden State Gloves Heavyweight Championship. During his career as a boxer, Dixon performed with several vocal groups until his friend Caston had persuaded him to try learning how to play bass and guitar.
DIXON’S CAREER IN MUSIC
In 1939, he immersed himself again in the world of music when he joined Five Breezes with Caston, along with Joe Bell, Gene Gilmore and Willie Hawthorne. Their signature sound combined the blues, jazz, and vocal harmonies in their music. With the onset of World War II, Dixon was imprisoned when he refused to be drafted as a conscientious objector. During the post- World War II, he formed a group called Four Jumps of Jive and afterwards, established the Big Tree Trio with his long-time colleague, Caston.
Dixon started recording with Chess Records but he eventually became a producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter. During his career as a producer, he was able to produce songs for Otis Rush, Magic Sam, and Buddy Guy. Later on, he established his own record label, Yambo Record, with to subsidiary labels, Supreme and Spoonful. In 1971, he released an album entitled Peace? and other singles like those of McKinley Mitchell, Lucky Peterson and others. Aside from winning a Grammy Award for his album Hidden Charms, Dixon was also inducted at the inaugural session of Blues Foundation and into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.
DIXON’S ADVOCACY AND LEGACY
During his last years, Willie Dixon spent his time in fulfilling his duties as ambassador for blues music and an advocate for its artists. With his foundation, Blues Heaven Foundation, he aimed to preserve the legacy of blues music and he helped blues musician in their fight for securing copyrights and royalties for their music. He had high regards for blues music’s role in shaping the American music. In 1977, he and Muddy Waters filed a case against ARC Music. They used what they had won in the case to establish Hoochie Coochie Music.
Because of his diabetes, Dixon’s health gradually declined and it was not long after one of his legs had to be amputated because of complications.
In January 29, 1992, William Dixon died because of heart failure. He was interred in Alsip, Illinois. After his death, his family took over his foundation. He also received a posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.