Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blues Poet

Willie Dixon would have been 94 years old today.

Willie was "The" blues poet on the Chicago Blues scene through the 1950's and early 60's, writing for Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter and a lot more. He also was a bass player and singer with his own trio. Phil and Leonard Chess of Chess records even made him a producer and A&R man...a pretty impressive fete in those decades for a man of color, even on a "race record" label in a culturally diverse town like Chicago.

But mainly, as I said, he was "The" blues poet. He wrote countless songs you know like "Little Red Rooster" and "Back Door Man" covered over and over by The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds and lots more.

Why do I know about this guy? I came of age in the late 70's early 80's. Popular music was CRAP! There was of course the Disco and Urban-cookie-cutter-Cowboy music which permeated the airwaves...both of which I can blame on John Travolta movies. When those scares went away, there was middle of the road new wave shite. Punk never made it to Montana, and by the time new Wave hit it had already been saccharined up with electronic drum kits (an abomination) Casio keyboards (a travesty before God) and the rest. And the lyrical content of top 40 pap was abysmal. Eric Clapton put it into words best as to why he was drawn to blues over pop. Pop, he said, was "Boy's" music, he wanted "Men's" music. I felt the same.

I was out in the middle of the great prairie though, so I had to really hunt my stuff down. I had to special order the great blues records I wanted through my local record store, and whenever I got a new blues album, I would scour the liner notes and songwriter indicia for leads to more and more that I would like.

One name kept popping up over and over. Willie Dixon. Just check out some classic "Man" song lyrics:


I am the backdoor man
I am the backdoor man
The men don't know
But the little girls, they understand


Some folks are built like this
Some folks are built like that
But the way I'm built
Now, don't you call me fat

'Cause I'm built for comfort
I ain't built for speed
I got everything here
That a good girl needs


Gypsy woman told my mama
Before I was born
You got a boy child comin'
Gonna be a son-of-a-gun
Gonna make these pretty women
Jump and shout
And the world want to know
What it's all about

On the seventh hour
On the seventh day
On the seventh month
The seventh doctor said
'He was born for good luck
And I know you see'd
I got seven hundred dollars
Now, don't you mess with me


Now, I can hold you close
And I can squeeze you tight
And I can make you cry for me
Both day and night
I can heal the sick
I can raise the dead
And make you little girls
Talk out of your head

That's way more powerful stuff than Hall & Oats ever sissy-fied your sons with.

And he had a presence for singing and a skill with bass playing too...

Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy (above)

Willie Dixon, "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin and Muddy Waters (below)

Thanks Willie.

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