Willie DixonOn 01/07/1915: Willie Dixon was born. He was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His mother would often rhyme the things she said, which Willie started to imitate. He would sing his first song at the age of four at Springfield Baptist Church. When he was seven he became a fan of a band, which included the pianist Little Brother Montgomery. He became familiar with the blues when he served time in prison farms as a young teenager. Still a teenager joined gospel quintet, the Union Jubilee Singers, where he sang bass and regularly performed on the Vicksburg radio station. He started to adapt poems he had written into songs and even sold a few to local groups.
In 1936 he moved to Chicago. There he would take up boxing, making use of his stature of 6 and a half feet and weight of 250 pounds. In 1937 he won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship and was briefly Joe Louis's sparring partner. After four fights though he left boxing after a dispute with his manager over money. During his boxing career he met the blues musician Leonard Caston, who would harmonize with him. Caston persuaded Dixon to take music seriously and built him a bass made of a tin can and a string. Dixon also learned to play guitar.
In 1939 he founded the Five Breezes with Caston, Joe Bell, Gene Gilmore and Willie Hawthorne. Dixon's progress was then halted by the start of World War II. Dixon was imprisoned for ten months after he refused military service as a conscientious objector. After the war he formed the group The Four Jumps of Five. He would be reunited with Caston, when they formed the Big Three Trio, which recorded for Columbia Records.
Dixon signed with Chess Records and focused less on performing.
By 1951 he was a producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter. He was also a producer for Checker Records, a Chess subsidiary. His output whilst with Chess was high and he was highly influential.
In addition to working at Chess he also worked for Cobra Records from late 1956 to early 1959. There he produced singles for Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. He later recorded for Bluesville Records.
In the late sixties, after leaving Chess, he ran his own label Yambo Records, which he ran into the mid seventies. With Yambo he released his own album Peace in 1971 and singles by McKingley Mitchell and Lucky Peterson amongst others.
In later life Dixon founded the Blues Heaven Foundation and worked to preserve the legacy of the blues and secure copyrights and royalties for blues musicians who had been exploited.
In 1977 Dixon and Muddy Waters sued Arc (Chess's publishing company) for the low royalties they had paid out and founded their own publishing company Hoochie Coochie Music from the proceeds.
In 1987 he reached a settlement with Led Zeppelin after suing them for plagiarism of his music in "Bring It On Home" and lyrics from his song "You Need Love" in "Whole Lotta Love".
Dixon's health suffered during the seventies and eighties. He had to have one of his legs amputated, as a result of diabetes.
In 1980 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
In 1989 he received a Grammy for his album "Hidden Charms".
He died of heart failure in 1992. Dixon was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2013 Dixon and his grandson Alex Dixon were inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame.
During his career Willie Dixon worked with Chuck Berry, 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 and others. He wrote many classic songs including: "Hoochie Coochie Man", "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "Little Red Rooster", "My Babe", "Spoonful", and "You Can't Judge a Book by the Cover".