Floyd Dixon : Blues To Boot
Dixon was born in February, 1929 in Texas, and as a teenager moved to Los Angeles. He was a self taught piano player and soon made a name for himself while winning talent shows and playing club gigs in the late forties. His first recordings were for the Swing Time label in 1948 - #261 "Houston Jump" / "Broken Hearted" and #287 - "You Need Me Now " / "Worried". The next year he began a series of records for the Modern label. "Dallas Blues" and "Helen" was released on Modern #653, and "That'll Get It" / "Till I Grow Old" on #664. At this time Dixon was part of a quartet led by bass player Eddie Williams called the Brown Buddies.
At the end of 1949 he left the combo to go out on his own and was replaced by Lester Myrat. In early 1950 the first release on his own for Modern was #700 - "Mississippi Blues" / "Drafting Blues". This record does well in the South and shows promise for the new singer and pianist. "Cow Town" and "Forever And Ever" are released on #725. In March of 1950 the newly formed Floyd Dixon Trio is featured on "Gloomy Baby" and "Roamin' Around" on Modern #727. "Shuffle Boogie" and "People Like Me" follows on #744. In August the new Dixon release is an immediate hit in the San Francisco Bay area of northern California. It is #761 - "It's Getting Foggy", and the increasing popularity of the Texas born performer causes Peacock records of Houston to re-release a two year old recording by Dixon "Sad Journey" and "She's Understanding" on #1544. In October Dixon takes part in an all star show at the Florentine Gardens in L.A. At about this time Modern #776 is released - "Playboy Blues" and "Baby Come Home". That November Aladdin Records purchases existing Dixon masters from Peacock and signs him to a seven year recording deal, getting him away from crosstown rival Modern. Aladdin immediately records Dixon and releases a new version of "Telephone Blues" and "Real Lovin' Mama" (vocal by Mari Jones) with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers on #3075. Dixon joins up with Percy Mayfield and plays Bakersfield and a number of clubs in the L.A. area, and the two plan to go out on tour beginning in January. In December Dixon turns down an offer to join the Lionel Hampton Orchestra as a singer - pianist.
The recording of "Telephone Blues" is a big hit in New Orleans and Texas. In February , Modern releases #797 - "Doin' The Town" / "You Made A Fool Out Of Me". Aladdin signs Billie Holiday and discusses the possibility of a duet recording with Dixon. In March Aladdin #3069 - "Walking And Talking Blues" / "Girl Fifteen" and #3078 - "Let's Dance" / "We'll Be Together" (originally Peacock #1528) are released, continuing the foolish practice of having three new releases by the same musician released simultaneously. In June Aladdin #3082 by Floyd and Johnny Moore's Three Blazers with vocals by Mari Jones - "Unlucky Girl" / "Four Years", and #3083 - "Pleasure Days" / "Rockin' At Home" are out, quickly followed by #3084 - "I'm So Worried" / "Don't Cry Baby". And - adding to the confusion, Swing Time re-releases #287 - "Worried" / "You Need Me Now". In July Floyd Dixon goes on tour with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. In September #3074 - "Empty Stocking Blues" / "San Francisco Blues" with the Three Blazers is issued. In October, Dixon plays the big "Matinee At Midnight" show at L.A.'s Olympic Auditorium with Maxwell Davis, Bettye Jean Washington, and many others. In December #3101 - "Do I Love You" and "Time And Place" with the Three Blazers is released.
In March of 1952 "Blues For Cuba" and "Bad Neighborhood" are on Aladdin #3121, once more with Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. In June #3135 - "Wine Wine Wine" and "Call Operator 210" is out and is an immediate hit. Johnny Otis soon covers "Operator" for Mercury records. Dixon appears at the Third Annual Blues Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium with Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Houston, T-Bone Walker, Helen Humes, Al Hibbler, Peppermint Harris, and Little Caesar. Floyd's next record is a cover of Little Caesar's hit "The River" on #3144. The flip side is "Red Cherries". In September Dixon brings his style to Kansas City;s Orchid Room for an extended stay. In October #3151 "Tired, Broke, And Busted" and "Come Back Baby" with Eddie Williams back with Dixon is released. Singer Margie Day joins the Floyd Dixon Combo as a featured vocalist. At year's end Dixon tours the Midwest with stops at Gary, Indiana, and Lima, Ohio.
In February of 1953 "Broken Hearted Traveler" and "You Played Me For A Fool" is on Aladdin #3166. In mid March, Margie Day and the Floyd Dixon Trio are in Washington, D.C. In April, Dixon and The Orioles appear in Chicago at the Pershing Ballroom, and follow it up with an appearance at the 5-4 Ballroom in Los Angeles. In June #3111 "Too Much Jelly Roll" and "Baby Let's Go Down To The Woods" which was recorded live at Gene Norman's Blues Jamboree in L.A. back in 1951. "Married Woman" and "Lovin'" are also released, on #3196. By the mid point of the year Dixon's long stay at Aladdin was over. He was picked up by the third of L.A.'s big four independent labels, Specialty Records. "Hard Living Alone" and "Please Don't Go" on #468. This was followed late in the year by #477 - "Hole In The Wall" / "Old Memories", and early in 1954 by #486 - "Ooh Ee, Ooh Ee" and "Nose Trouble". Those three Specialty records were the total output on that label for Dixon. His next stop later on in that year was on the Atlantic subsidiary label Cat Records. He recorded with a full R & B band with three saxes and had two releases for the label. Cat #106 - "Moonshine" and "Roll Baby Roll" was followed by #114 - "Is It True" and "Hey Bartender".
By 1955, the same fate had befallen Dixon as many other of the early R & B performers-that of being overlooked by the new youth oriented fans of the music. They felt that the older performers did not "speak" to them and looked to the personalities that they felt were more relevant and up to date. Dixon went on recording after his years in the spotlight, recording "I'm Ashamed Of Myself" and "Alarm Clock Blues" for Checker Records on #857. Dixon kept putting out records on a number of small independent labels in the Los Angeles area such as Pearl, Cash, Ebb ("What Is Life Without A Home" and "Oooh Little Girl" on #105), and Kent (part of the Modern family of labels) such as Kent #311 - "Change Your Mind" / "Dance The Thing". In August of 1957 Floyd appears on Lonnie Johnson's radio broadcast from Dolphin's of Hollywood over station KGFJ. From the dawn of the sixties until the mid seventies, Dixon performed very little. By the mid 70s he began playing gigs in and around San Francisco and his re-discovery led to festival appearances here and in Western Europe.
Floyd Dixon - a true R & B original who was a part of the developing scene, and another influential musician that never had a big national hit record. However, his significance and importance far outstripped the numbers of records he sold. And that is why we remember his contributions to the music.
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