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WILLIE DIXON

Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in the development of classic urban blues. In a career spanning six decades he's gained renown for his prolific work as bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, arranger, musician rights activist, and producer. As a boy in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon sold copies of his original songs to local bands, developed his harmony singing style with the Union Jubilee Singers, and trained as an amateur heavyweight boxer. In the late 1920s Dixon made his way to Chicago for a Golden Gloves Boxing Championship. He could have been a contender if not for the intervention of guitarist Leonard "Baby Doo" Caston, who convinced him to form a musical duo-a fortuitous turn of events that altered the course of American music. Dixon learned to play bass and they busked on street corners, later forming a band, The Five Breezes. Dixon's successive groups, The Four Jumps of Jive and the Big Three Trio, led him to work as a session bassist for the Chess brothers, who quickly recognized his skills as a songwriter, arranger and producer.

Throughout the 1950s Dixon worked primarily as a producer and songwriter, establishing the careers of dozens of blues legends the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter with hit recordings of his now classic songs "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Evil" and "My Babe." He returned to the stage in the 1960s, reaching far beyond the blues arena when English bands reinterpreted his music and gave birth to "The British Invasion." Dixon's career prospered over the next two decades and in 1988 his life's work was honored with the release of MCA Records' boxed-set, "Willie Dixon: The Chess Box," a comprehensive collection of his most famous songs by Chess artists. Now firmly established as an elder statesmen of the blues, Dixon continued performing and producing movie soundtracks until 1992, when he passed away at age seventy-seven after a long battle with diabetes.

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