Saturday, July 20, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
William James Dixon was born in 1915, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. One of fourteen children, his mother, Daisy loved poetry and often spoke in rhyme, she taught Willie to do the same from an early age and thereafter he developed an acute sense of rhythm. From the age of four, he sang at the Springfield Baptist Church and by the age of seven had discovered the piano playing of Little Brother Montgomery. Willie Dixon was first introduced to blues when he served time on prison farms in Mississippi as a young teenager. Later, he learned to sing harmony with the Union Jubilee Singers, and sang bass. Then he started adapting his poems into songs and selling some to local music groups. This was the humble beginnings of America's greatest blues musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger and record producer.
In 1936, he joined the migration north to Chicago and there he took up boxing. After he won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship (Novice Division) in 1937 he turned professional and sparred for a short time with the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis.
After he fell out with his manager over money, he gave up pugilism. Willie still enjoyed singing harmony and sang in several vocal groups in Chicago. His friend, Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston (blues piano and guitar) persuaded him to become a professional musician and presented him with a homemade bass, made of a tin can and one string. He and Caston founded The Five Breezes in 1939 and with the line-up of Joe Bell, Gene Gilmore and Willie Hawthorne. They played a blend of blues, jazz, and vocal harmonies, similar to the Ink Spots, and were signed to Columbia. The Five Breezes disbanded in 1941.
During World War II, Willie, a man of principle, resisted the draft, on the grounds that America institutionalized racism and racist laws, and served 10 months in prison as a conscientious objector. On release in 1945, he put together a new group called the Four Jumps of Jive, with Bernardo Dennis (Guitar), Ellis Hunter (Guitar) Willie Dixon (Bass), and Gene "Jimmy" Gilmore (vocals, & Piano). The band released a few records but split soon after. In 1946, he re-joined Leonard Caston and with guitarist Bernardo Dennis (replaced after a year by Ollie Crawford), they formed The Big Three Trio and signed for Bullet Records, before switching to Columbia. The trio played together until 1952.
Willie started working part time for the Chess Brothers in 1948 after meeting them at a club the brothers owned. By 1951, he was a full-time employee and acted as producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter. He was also a producer for the Chess subsidiary Checker Records. After the break up of the Big Three Trio, Willie Dixon played bass with the Chess house band, and recorded with virtually every name artist in Chicago. Eddie Boyd recorded some songs co-written with Willie Dixon in 1953, and a couple reached number 3 on the R&B chart. In early 1954, Muddy recorded Dixon’s ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ with himself on electric guitar and vocals, Jimmy Rogers on second guitar, Little Walter (harp), Elgin Evans (drums), Otis Spann on piano and Willie Dixon on upright bass. The song became the biggest hit of Muddy Water's career and remained on the R & B charts for 13 weeks.
Muddy Waters went on to record more Willie Dixon songs in 1954 and 1955, including: I’m ready. which spent nine weeks on the Billboard R&B chart peaking at number four. "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (Just Make Love to Me) with backing from Little Walter (harmonica), Jimmy Rogers (guitar)r, Otis Spann (piano), Willie Dixon on (up right bass), and Fred Below (drums), also reached number four on Billboard magazine's Sellers chart. Many others were on As and B sides.
Willie Dixon was on fire and soon other Chess artists began squabbling over his songs, hoping to bag a hit for themselves. Howlin’ Wolf recorded Evil (is going on ) with sidemen Hubert Sumlin and Jody Williams on guitars, Otis Spann on piano, Willie Dixon on double-bass, and Earl Phillips on drums.
Little Walter And His Jukes recorded "(I Love You So) Oh Baby" is a which was co-written by Little Walter and Willie Dixon reach #8 in the Billboard R&B Charts in 1954. A year later, “My Babe,” topped the same charts. The song was written by Willie Dixon and featured Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Leonard Caston on guitars, Willie Dixon on double-bass, with Fred Below on drums.
Willie Dixon continued to release his own songs as well as play bass on other versions of his songs recorded by Jimmy Wetherspoon, Lowell Fulson, and Bo Diddley. .
Willie Dixon’s relationship with Chess was sometimes strained, but he stayed with the label from 1948 to the early 1960s. During this time Dixon's output and influence were prodigious. He is considered one of the key figures in the creation of Chicago blues and worked with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush, Bo Diddley, Joe Louis Walker, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Koko Taylor, Little Milton, Eddie Boyd, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lowell Fulson, Willie Mabon, Memphis Slim, Washboard Sam, Jimmy Rogers, Sam Lay, Chuck Berry, and many others.
From late 1956 to early 1959, in a similar capacity for the independent record label Cobra Records. There he produced early singles for Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy, and many others.
Willie Dixon was an important link between the blues and rock and roll. In 1955, he started working with a young Chuck Berry at Chess. After he injected a blues bass line into Berry’s Maybellene. it elevated the song and the single went on to become a smash hit, establishing Chuck Berry as a rock’n’roller. Their association continued and his double bass was featured on Johnny B. Goode, You Can’t Catch Me, Too Much Monkey Business, Roll Over Beethoven and Memphis.
In 1960, Willie Dixon played bass on Jimmy Reed’s Big Boss Man , along with Mamma Reed (vocal), Lee Baker aka Lonnie Brooks and Lefty Bates (guitars), Willie Dixon (bass), and Earl Phillips (drums).
From 1950 to 1965, Willie Dixon penned some of the greatest Chicago blues songs ever recorded. Spoonful and "Wang Dang Doodle" were recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960. The Chicago blues classic, "Back Door Man" appeared on the B side of Wang Dang Doodle in 1961. Later the same year, Howlin’ Wolf released "Little Red Rooster" ("The Red Rooster") and "I Ain't Superstitious" . "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover" came out in 1962 by Bo Diddley and gave him his last chart success He influenced a generation of musicians worldwide and his songs have been recorded by countless musicians in many genres as well as by various ensembles in which he participated.
Blues music was relatively well known to UK jazz musicians and by the mid- 50s record labels were distributing American jazz and blues records to what was an emerging market. Among them were two young musicians. Cyril Davies, and Alexis Korner, and in 1957 they opened The London Blues and Barrelhouse Club featuring visiting artists like Muddy Waters playing amplified electric blues. Davies and Korner formed the band Blues Incorporated in 1961 and recorded R&B from the Marquee a year later which featured three Willie Dixon songs’ I got my brand on you, I Wanna Put a Tiger in Your Tank, and Hoochie Coochie. The album was not a commercial success but it became extremely influential on young UK musicians keen to learn to play the blues .
Seeing the potential Willie Dixon was pivotal in organising the American Folk Blues Festival tours of Europe, after German jazz publicist Joachim-Ernst Berendt wanted to bring the original African-American blues performers to Europe. Berendt thought European audiences would flock to concert halls to see them in person. Promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau contacted Willie Dixon and were given access to the blues culture of the southern United States. The first festival was held in 1962, and they continued almost annually until 1972, after an eight-year hiatus reviving the festival in 1980 until its final performance in 1985. Willie Dixon toured Europe with American Folk Blues Festival between 1962 and 1964, and there he met a group of young musicians in the UK desperate to learn the blues.
For many Europeans the first encounter with Willie Dixon was when they saw the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962. In London, their performances at the Crawdaddy Club drew young blues including Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richard. The club was owned by Giorgio Gomelsky who promoted the early Rolling Stones and he encouraged them and others to engage with their idols. Needless to say, the blues greats, many of whom had never left North America were blown away with the warm reception they received from white audiences in the UK. Willie Dixon made tapes of his music to help the young enthusiasts in their quest to play the blues.
Many emerging UK groups prior to the British Invasion of the American now included their versions of Chicago electric blues songs of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley into their live repertoire. Willie Dixon songs and blues influences continued to surface on vinyl as groups across the UK started to include them in their recordings.
The most commercially successful was the Rolling Stones' #1 UK hit with "Little Red Rooster" (1964), the single was never released in the US. In the same year, the group covered "I Just Want To Make Love To You" on their debut album, The Rolling Stones (England's newest hitmakers) and went to #11 in the US charts .
Monday, July 15, 2019
Terry Nelhams was born in 1940 in Acton, London. He was the third of five children and even as a child had an entrepreneurial spirit. He kept up a series of paper rounds and sold papers from a pitch which enabled him to afford a few luxuries as a twelve year old. When he left school Terry became a messenger for a company that made commercials. Later he progressed to become an assistant film editor and at night he played in a skiffle group called the Worried Men. The group became the resident band at the 2I’s coffee bar in Soho in 1957 and when Jack Good, the producer for the 6-5 Special (BBC), saw Terry he signed him up for the program. Terry became Adam Faith and made two appearances on the show in 1958. Although he was signed by EMI Records and made a couple of singles, produced by Tony Hatch, no commercial success followed so Adam went back to post production work. John Barry remembered Adam from the 6-5 Special and invited him to appear on a new program called Drumbeat. He made such an impression Adam was able to give up his day time job and become a professional singer. Success was elusive at first but when song writer Johnny Worth offered to write for Adam, the next single What Do You Want ? went to No 1 in 1959.
The next release was Poor Me which also made No 1.
'Big Time' / 'Someone Else's Baby', was released while 'Poor Me' was still in the charts but just failed to become Adam’s consecutive number one.
In the pre-Beatle era, Adam was regarded as one of the three top British pop stars alongside Cliff Richard and Billy Fury. He toured extensively on the pop show circuit, but in 1961 took the unprecedented action of trying cabaret and also acting. Adam appeared in several films Beat Girl, Never Let Go, What A Whopper and Mix Me A Person.
When his pop star position was challenged with the rise of the Beatles he hired song writer Chris Andrews to write songs in the new style and reorganized his backing band, The Roulettes. In 1965 he was back in the hit parade with The First Time.
Changing musical styles in the late sixties found Adam struggling with his recording career. Adam and the Roulettes came to Australia with John Leyton and toured for 18 days. His last chart entry was Cheryl’s Goin' Home in 1966.
One other claim to fame Adam had was he was reputedly the man to convince Sandie Shaw to sing Puppet on a string. She later regretted the action although but after she won the Eurovision song contest and had a number one hit in several countries.
Adam gave up his singing career in 1967 and moved into repertory theatre. In 1970 Adam landed the title role in Keith Waterhouse’s Budgie TV series. Adam played a larrikin cockney, just out of prison, and scraping a living on the edge of the law. His co-star was Scots actor, Iain Cuthbertson, as the scheming villain Charlie Endell who employed Budgie. Budgie became a TV classic.
Despite no longer singing Adam stayed in touch with the music industry and when in 1972 he discovered Leo Sayer (a street busker), he and Dave Cohen (drummer in the Roulettes and later changed his name to David Courtney), became Leo’s manager and record producer.
Adam also produced Roger Daltry’s (The Who) first solo album.
Mid the busiest period of his career Adam survived a horrendous car accident which left him near death. Despite his injuries he fought hard to recover and spend quality time with his family. In 1975, he was offered a major part in a new Michael Apted film called Stardust. The highly-acclaimed film starred David Essex as a rock singer, with Adam Faith as (Mike), his manager.
The film was sequel to That’ll be the day, where the Faith’s character was played by Ringo Starr. In 1978 he was back producing and worked with Lonnie Donegan on a new album. A year later Adam appeared in Yesterday's Hero (which starred Ian McShane) then in 1980, he co-starred with Roger Daltrey in McVicar.
His final film appearance was in Foxes, with Jodie Foster in the starring role.
Adam changed careers in the 1980s and became a successful financial advisor to the elite but underwent open heart surgery in 1986. After a full recovery he became a financial columnist and continued this well into the nineties. Adam’s acting career was relaunched in 1991, when he landed a plum part as co-star to Zoë Wannamaker in the bitter-sweet TV series Love Hurts.
The series ran for three years. In 2001 Adam was back in a TV sitcom called The House That Jack Built and co starring, Gillian Taylforth. The program ran for one series.
His finances suffered a massive setback when a new company he was trying to float went under and Adam was declared a bankrupt reportedly owing £32 million. . He survived and got work as a radio presenter and actor with plans to get back on the road again. Tragically Adam finally succumbed to his heart problems and died in 2003.
Worth a listen
(Got A) Heartsick Feeling (1958)
What Do You Want?(1959)
Poor Me (1960)
Someone Else's Baby (1960)
Message To Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)(1964)
Giving it all away (1973)
It’s a hard life (1973)
Puppet on a string