Willie Dixon – Chicago Blues and beyond


While visiting Nigel, in Southern France recently, we listened to a whole CD of Willie Dixon. Although a prolific song writer, we realised we knew many of his songs but in fact we did not know him well as lead singer and band leader. We knew his songs through the many artists, from Muddy Waters onwards who recorded his songs.

Let’s start exploring  the life and works of this great Blues giant ( and of course , physically as an ex-boxer, he was quite a giant!).

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William James “Willie” Dixon (July 1, 1915 – January 29, 1992) was an American blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer. A Grammy Award winner who was proficient on both the upright bass and the guitar and as a vocalist, Dixon is perhaps best known as one of the most prolific songwriters of his time.

He is recognized as one of the founders of the Chicago blues sound. 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 the man’s most famous compositions includes “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”, “You Shook Me”, and “Bring It On Home”. These tunes were written during the peak of Chess Records, 1950–1965, and performed by Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Walter, influencing a worldwide generation of musicians.

Lets start with  I am the Blues

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One of the great exponents of Willie’s songs and band leader,Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield):

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Hoochie Coochie Man:

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and those who were greatly influenced -Eric Clapton, with the just as great, Buddy Guy

Then Spoonful :

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and to illustrate who he influenced-

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Ten Years After :

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an interview with Willie Dixon -with a focus on Muddy Water’s harp players:

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Willie Dixon wrote many songs which Howling Wolf recorded, such as  EVIL

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and those who were influenced such as  Captain Beefheart :

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and Little Red Rooster by the Wolf:

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and those who were influenced such as the Grateful Dead:

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Back Door Man – Willie Dixon live:

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and those he influenced -the Doors -Back Door Man

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i just wanna make love to you -Willie Dixon

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and those he influenced –  such as Etta James

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I ain’t superstitious -Willie Dixon

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and those he influenced such as Jeff Beck

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Another great Willie Dixon song -beautifully crafted by Little Walter (and no covers)

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Wang Dang Doodle with Koko Taylor and Little Walter

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and those he influenced like Savoy Brown:

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You shook me -Willie Dixon

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and Jeff Beck’s version

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And Willy Dixon’s ‘Bring it on home’ – played by Sonny Boy Williamson (who else could do this one?)

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Willie Dixon certainly liked harp players -here’s Little Walter again with ‘Mellow Down Easy”

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and a great Paul Butterfield version:

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If you think that is quite a portfolio of songs -go to this link and see the real list of songs and their cover artists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_written_by_Willie_Dixon

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~ by Ray Harris on April 12, 2013.

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