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.

Willie Dixon, Built for Comfort

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.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on Ama­zon, iTunes, Spo­ti­fy. Here’s a live per­for­mance guest­ing with a white band for a col­lege crowd. Stil­l, it’s fun. But go lis­ten to that al­bum.

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

May 26, 2018
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