WILLIE DIXON I Am The Blues (1970)

I Am The Blues (1970)
Dixon Finally Has His Say

One of the all-time blues greats was, first and foremost, a songwriter. Even his talents as a producer and bassist (even briefly running his own label) overshadowed his output as a recording artist. And, depending on how you categorize the albums that first featured his name on the cover (five with Memphis Slim from 1959-63), 1970′s I Am The Blues is Willie Dixon’s first solo album. You should already know these songs, as they are the cream of the crop of compositions that became nothing short of milestones for both Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf… not counting all the English kids whose high-profile covers finally helped to earn him some green in his late 60s. He even received songwriting credits (for “You Shook Me” & “I Can’t Quit You Baby”) on Led Zeppelin’s debut LP without a fight. Though, to beat a dead horse, he still had to sue the band for pilfering parts of “You Need Love” and “Bring It On Home.” While Dixon may not have the recognizable vocal chops of his contemporaries, this session is special for what it isn’t… some generic superstar gathering featuring reverent Brits paying homage to a blues king. Instead, these recordings feature hand-picked Chicago vets, including Sunnyland Slim (piano), Johnny Shines (guitar), Clifton James (drums) and Walter Horton (harp), making this album real even after all the kids had turned the blues into something decidedly commercial. The better known versions of these songs have been previously etched in our minds, of course, so Willie can’t compete with the legendary covers, but this Lp is as classic as it is forgotten, except by the most dedicated of aficionados. This is a top-notch vinyl rip, while the 2008 CD is available new at the loss leader price of $3.99 at Amazon, HERE.

Back Door Man (6:12)
I Can’t Quit You Baby (6:45)
The Seventh Son (4:19)
Spoonful (5:00)
I Ain’t Superstitious (4:08)
You Shook Me (4:19)
I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man (4:54)
Little Red Rooster (3:41)
The Same Thing (4:46)

20 Comments

  • 1
    Willard
    December 14, 2012 - 10:36 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • 3
    phildelic
    December 14, 2012 - 12:01 | Permalink

    I know I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but Willie Dixon took advantage of his position as Chess talent booker to claim the songwriting from the many musicians who recorded at Chess who either knew no better, or had the option of Dixon claiming the songwriting or of not recording at all.

  • 4
    Jim
    December 14, 2012 - 12:15 | Permalink

    @phildelic. That may or may not be so, and I have no reason to doubt what you’re saying, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that this is a stunning album, a dark, shamanistic vision of the blues. I could listen to ‘Spoonful’ from this album for four days, whereas I wouldn’t give Cream’s version four bars.

    I do believe most of Elvis Presley’s writing credits operated in the same way. Col. Parker would suggest Elvis got a writing credit, or else the song wouldn’t get recorded.

  • 5
    phildelic
    December 14, 2012 - 12:23 | Permalink

    Hi Jim,
    I will take a listen to the album, from what you say it sounds good. Sadly the Willie Dixon statement is correct. I know the daughter of a woman who “co-wrote” songs with Presley. As Col. Parker would say, a percent of an Elvis song is worth more than 100% of nothing…

  • 6
    Willard
    December 14, 2012 - 12:50 | Permalink

    Personally, I’d never heard that about Dixon, though it IS true of many of the kingmakers, like Elvis/Parker, Phil Spector and others. In Dixon’s case, his tenure was well before songwriting was AS lucrative as it was in the late 50s/60s. Especially for black artists/writers. His taking credits back in the early Chess days wouldn’t have made him much money in the first place and he was legendarily broke in those days anyway, as Chess was screwing HIM for everything he was doing (playing and producing). Are there any online sources for the Dixon info?

  • 7
    December 14, 2012 - 16:22 | Permalink

    Gaw-dang! I remember now how great this album was back int he day! It helped me get thru my first year of college (well, that and an ocean of Stroh’s beer…)

  • 8
    phildelic
    December 14, 2012 - 17:43 | Permalink

    Hi Willard,
    I’ve heard it a few times, as recently as Tuesday from a prolific songwriter, and I also long suspected it myself. I think Buddy Guy says it somewhere, and it may be written elsewhere: was it in that big TV blues series too that I can’t remember the name of?

    But anyway, that is the way of the world. My band once borrowed the tune from a ’60′s South African record, and made a point of co-crediting the original composer. It took our publishers a long time to track him down in South Africa and send him several large checks, as it became a “hit record”! Later we found he was a record producer, and not the musicians, who were probably playing a folk tune anyway. As were many of those Blues songs.

    C’est la vie…
    Phil

    • 9
      Willard
      December 14, 2012 - 18:44 | Permalink

      Well, I don’t doubt you either. I just wonder how pervasive it was. When it comes to the “borrowing” of material to create new material, that was pretty standard, even up though the folk movement. Dylan did a lot of it himself and it wasn’t considered stealing, as much as adapting (in those days, anyway). I’d hate to think that Dixon just completely “took” full songs, like some of these on this album, so I’d be curious to hear about some documented examples of specific songs – along the lines of pilferage Jimmy Page seemed unashamed of, which was just outright theft. The kind of piggybacking that Spector & Parker/Presley (and others) did is one thing. What some artists did via “re-writing” blues, folk or early Chuck Berry-style tunes is another. But, outright theft (like some of Page’s most obvious examples) is something else altogether. Thanks.

  • 10
    Jim
    December 15, 2012 - 03:24 | Permalink

    Willard,

    I think the wholesale pilfering of Jake Holmes ‘Dazed and Confused’ is one of the worst cases of Page’s thieving.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTsvs-pAGDc …everyone can judge for themselves.

    • 11
      Willard
      December 15, 2012 - 13:39 | Permalink

      Yeah, we posted Holmes’ album a few weeks back just to draw some attention to it… and his other music that many people (including myself) never bothered to follow up on. Thanks.

  • 12
    buzzbabyjesus
    December 15, 2012 - 12:17 | Permalink

    I got to see Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters on stage together as the front half of The Chicago Blues All Stars.
    It was late in their careers, Muddy came out on crutches and sat on a stool, but it was still powerful. He plugged in his tele and rejuvenated, playing some tart, sharp, bridge pick-up leads.

    • 13
      Willard
      December 15, 2012 - 13:37 | Permalink

      Never saw Dixon. Caught Muddy in the mid 80s though. He wasn’t using crutches but did use the stool. His voice was fantastic.

  • 14
    Pete
    December 15, 2012 - 13:27 | Permalink

    There was an interesting discussion at Expecting Rain (I found it again via Google) about when Dylan gave credit and when he didn’t. Dixon got a writing credit from the get-go on “My Wife’s Home Town” but not “Someday Baby” which, it seems, can be traced past Dixon to Sleepy John Estes, or “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” which goes back to, um, maybe God. Dylan’s theory seems to be that if you can trace the riff or hook back far enough, and twist all or part of the words, then you can claim it. Dixon surely did write; he may also have borrowed; and, sad to say, he could have stolen too. It is, indeed, the way of the world. Or, as Keith Richards once said (long after nicking “The Last Time” from the Staples), the price of an education.

    • 15
      pete
      December 15, 2012 - 13:28 | Permalink

      Autofill fail, dat me

      • 16
        Willard
        December 15, 2012 - 13:33 | Permalink

        I’m the all powerful OZ on my end. Don’t cross me, though, or I’ll start tagging your comments as Shirley. Thanks Pete.

        • 17
          pete
          December 15, 2012 - 22:27 | Permalink

          You mean you CAN fly this plane and land it?

          • 18
            Willard
            December 16, 2012 - 00:25 | Permalink

            Hardly, I can tinker with the controls enough to crash it, though.

  • 19
    Brian
    December 20, 2012 - 20:39 | Permalink

    Love the drum part on this particular version of Back Door Man (1st track). Try tapping out the accents w/hand on table or desk. You will get it after a while but the drummer really threw the beat accent around in a wonderfully puzzling way.

    WD claims he was cheated by Chess in his bio. So maybe he learned from the best. I don’t know… I just listen to the sounds coming out of the speakers. Who “stole” or “borrowed” from whom… matter for boring trials & courts. Unfortunate if it happens no doubt. Listening to music is much more fun.

    • 20
      Willard
      December 20, 2012 - 20:43 | Permalink

      Probably a good philosophy.

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