Willie Dixon

With well over 500 songs to his credit, many of them classics, Willie Dixon is certainly one of the towering figures in the creation and development of Chicago blues. Hailing from Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon began performing and writing songs at a young age, influenced by gospel, country, and western, as well as the Delta blues of his home state. Relocating to Chicago in 1936, Dixon gained valuable experience performing with various local groups for well over a decade. He would find his niche at Chess Records, where in 1951 he began serving multiple duties as a staff musician, in-house songwriter, and as a recording artist. Before long, Dixon found himself producing, arranging, and serving as bass player on sessions for Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, and Sonny Boy Williamson, among others. Dixon's impressive list of songwriting credits from this era includes many classics, including "Hoochie Coochie Man," "I'm Ready," and "I Just Want to Make Love For You" (Muddy Waters); "Back Door Man," "Spoonful," and "I Ain't Superstitious" (Howlin' Wolf), "My Babe" (Little Walter); and "Wang Dang Doodle" (Koko Taylor), to name but a few examples. For several years toward the end of that decade, Dixon left Chess to work directly with artists affiliated with the Cobra label, including up and comers like Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and Magic Sam. Returning to Chess in 1959 as a recording artist, he would also continue to write and produce many of the greatest blues offerings of the 1960s, including a highly influential series of duet albums with Memphis Slim.

Serving as a crucial link between the blues and rock and roll, Dixon's contributions as a bandleader were equally impressive. He began more actively pursuing a solo career at the end of the 1960s, for which he assembled a touring band of all-star Chicago session musicians. Although personnel would change frequently, depending on who was available at any given time, this era gave many fans and listeners their first opportunity to catch this now legendary musician performing live, backed by the cream of the crop of Chicago musicians.

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