I saw most of the old blues guys perform, but Willie Dixon was the only one I ever had a conversation with; in maybe 1974 as a teenager, when I was a writer for the student paper at my college, and Willie was playing a show and I asked him what he thought about all these white kids liking the blues. He looked at me like I was an idiot — too polite to point out that you play for whoever’s gonna pay — and said something like “Blues is for everyone, man.” Anyhow, he wrote like 500 songs, and I’ve always thought Built for Comfort was right up there.
I’d make some crack about Willie not being built for speed, but he wasn’t actually fat by American standards, and anyhow it’d just be wrong; he loved to drive a fast blues with his stand-up bass, boppita-boppita-boppita at quadruple speed, sometimes you’d see his bandmates kind of hanging on for dear life.
That concert, it was outside on the lawn, and it changed my life. I’d never seen actual live blues before that wasn’t played by a long-haired white drug hippie. Some of whom could play it pretty well, but these old Chicago guys were really on a different level entirely.
This is collected on his debut album Willie’s Blues, with Memphis Slim on piano. It’s from 1959, this series seems to be spending a lot of time in the Fifties recently. Anyhow, all the songs are good, Willie and Slim are razor-sharp, and the sound quality is fabulous. The producers used the now-abandoned technique of letting the musicians set up, then pointing a couple of high-quality stereo microphones at them hooked up to a high-quality tape recorder, and getting out of the fucking way.