Willie Dixon Photography

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon was one of the greatest and most prolific American songwriters. In the early ’50s, he met Phil and Leonard Chess, who had recently started Chess Records. Dixon started working for Chess, serving as a bass player, arranger, and producer on recording sessions for artists like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Bo Diddley.

Dixon is known as “the father of modern Chicago Blues,” shaping the blues of the 1950s and ’60s with songs like “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Little Red Rooster,” “Spoonful,” and “Wang Dang Doodle.” His impact reached far beyond the blues, however, with many early British rock bands appropriating, adapting, and covering his work—the debut albums of Cream, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones all feature songs written by Dixon.

Dixon established the Blues Heaven Foundation in 1981, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting impoverished blues musicians and sponsoring educational programs to preserve the blues. Dixon was an inaugural inductee of the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll (1994) and Songwriters (2015) Halls of Fame.

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