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Entries : Willie Dixon and the Blues
Willie Dixon and the Blues

Willie Dixon and the Blues

Willie Dixon—blues artist, songwriter, and studio producer—was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1915. During a Depression youth spent alternately as a laborer, prison inmate, and train hobo, Dixon first displayed the talent that later established his fame, writing songs for diverse Vicksburg musicians. His first motivation for coming to Chicago in 1936 was boxing: Dixon won a Golden Gloves title and sparred with world champion Joe Louis, before shoddy management ended his prizefighting career. Dixon retooled himself as a musician, playing bass through the 1940s with several groups and becoming involved with the emerging blues recording industry in Chicago. Dixon's best work came during his years at Chess Records (1951–1956; 1959–1971). Rising from accompanist to studio manager, Dixon worked with countless artists, including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry, and Koko Taylor. During an intermediate stint with Cobra Records (1956–1959), Dixon worked with many in the “second generation” of blues talent—Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Magic Sam—cementing his reputation as preeminent impresario within the postwar blues scene. In spite of Chess's collapse in 1971 and the decline of the blues' commercial appeal, Dixon maintained an active professional life, continuing his festival work and organizing the Chicago Blues All-Stars touring group. In 1982, he started the Blues Heaven Foundation, a group promoting awareness about blues among urban youth and helping musicians regain royalty rights, a struggle Dixon waged until his death in 1992.