Today our 1915: Whatta Year! series turns to musician Willie Dixon, born on this date 100 years ago. Dixon brought the term “Hoochie Coochie man” to the mainstream and, oh, yeah, along with Muddy Waters shaped postwar Chicago blues.
The pride of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon traveled north in 1936, had a successful interlude as an amateur boxer (he sparred with Joe Louis and won the state Golden Gloves competition), and started in as a musician using–so the legend tells us–a bass made of a tin can and one string. There would be no peace in the barnyard ever after as Dixon became a cornerstone of the Chess Records dream team in the 1950s, and thus mightily influenced the blues-driven rock and/or roll the kids embraced in the next decade.
Dixon worked with or knew next to everyone. That included pioneering African American disc jockey and political activist Richard E. Stamz, co-author of UIP’s Give ‘Em Soul Richard!, the memoir of Stamz’s life and times. Stamz called Dixon “the straightest son-of-a-bitch I have ever met” and the two became close friends. As Stamz recalled:
Willie never did quit writing. He wrote everywhere. In a joint he’d go into the toilet and write. Willie had a great big garden at his house, and we would be out there picking up fruit or whatever, and Willie would stop and sit up on the front porch and go to writing. That’s the way he wrote.
And wrote, and wrote:
Willie gave everybody songs, and he rehearsed them anywhere he was. Willie at one time told me that with the numbers he had given away, the numbers that he had predominantly helped on, and the numbers that were in his name alone, he had helped produce or write over eight hundred songs for Leonard Chess. I believe that because he never quit.