John Scott's SSR Pick: April 29, 2022

What’s up Sorry State readers? I’m gonna get straight to the point. I’ve listened to I am the Blues probably 10-15 times this past week. Released in 1970, this record is the sixth studio album by the legendary Chicago bluesman Willie Dixon and is nothing but heavy hitters from beginning to end. The album features songs written by Dixon but originally recorded by other artists such as Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters for Chess Records. These songs have been covered countless times by artists like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, and The Grateful Dead to name a few, and are essentially part of the blueprint for rock n roll. Willie Dixon is pretty much the most badass person to ever walk this earth. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1915, he was one of fourteen children. His first venture into the world of music was at the age of four, where he sang in his church’s choir. Later, as a young teenager, he served time on prison farms in Mississippi, where he was first introduced to the blues. In 1936, he left Mississippi to head up to Chicago and began boxing. At 6’6 and 250 pounds, Willie was a force to be reckoned with. After winning the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in 1937, he began his short career as a professional boxer, only fighting in four fights before leaving the sport due to a dispute over money with his manager. During his time as a boxer, though, he met Leonard Caston, and the two would harmonize together while at the gym. Caston was the first person to persuade Dixon to start taking music seriously, even going as far as to build him his first bass, crafted from a tin can and one string. He also learned how to play the guitar during this time. In 1939 he helped found the Five Breezes along with Caston, a group that blended blues, jazz, and vocal harmonies. However, this came to a halt in 1940 with the draft for WWII. Dixon was imprisoned for ten months for refusing to fight for a nation with such deeply rooted institutionalized racism. After the war, he formed a few more groups and recorded for Columbia Records. The biggest move in his career though came in 1950, when he signed with Chess Records as a recording artist but quickly became more involved with administrative tasks for the label. By 1951, he was already a producer, studio musician, talent scout, and staff songwriter for the label. Over the next decade is when he penned the legendary songs you’ll find on this album, my favorites being “Back Door Man,” “Spoonful,” and “The Little Red Rooster.” These songs are just incredibly written, and I’ll never get tired of listening to them. Willie Dixon is a southern legend and his music wonderfully stands the test of time and will be appreciated by music lovers for generations to come. If you ever want to learn about the roots of rock n roll, listen to Willie Dixon.

P.S. Shoutout to my brother William, who just moved to Seattle, for introducing me to the blues and Willie Dixon’s music. Thanks for fulfilling your duties as an older brother by always putting me on to cool shit. Good luck in Seattle brother, I’m gonna miss listening to records until the crack of dawn with you.

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