Don’t Nix Dixon

Willie Dixon is one of the most important figures in modern music history. So why does no one know about him?

If you love rock n’ roll, you’ve heard his work. Whenever you get the Led out, rock to the Stones, or clap to Clapton, you owe him a debt of gratitude. And yet while the names of his musical progeny are universally recognized even in shorthand, the name “Willie Dixon” remains relatively obscure, stumping even lifelong fans of his music. So who is Willie Dixon?

To put it simply, Willie Dixon is the Bob Dylan of blues. Or, more accurately, Bob Dylan is the Willie Dixon of folk music.

It’s no secret that rock n’ roll has its roots in the blues, and more particularly in the electric blues that emerged from Chicago in the early 50’s, which would make its way across the pond and inspire a generation of British rockers. While working for Chess Records as an in-house songwriter and backing musician, Dixon wrote songs for blues legends Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, and many more. One of the most prolific songwriters of all time, Dixon wrote more than 500 songs in his lifetime, and many of his songs form the canon of Chicago blues. Dixon was a tireless bass player as well, and his bass can be heard on countless recordings from that era. Dixon also worked with rock pioneers such as Chuck Berry and Buddy Guy, who were themselves a prime influence on the British Invasion.

Although Dixon did eventually record many of his own songs, his legacy is largely connected with the artists that took his songs to the top, with or without his permission. When the Rolling Stones recorded Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster” in 1964, it went to #1 in the UK, a first for a blues record and the second #1 hit of many for the Stones. But no artists owe more to Willie Dixon, both literally and figuratively, than Led Zeppelin. Zep covered two Dixon classics for their debut album, “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” and “borrowed” from two more Dixon tunes for their second album, resulting in “Bring It On Home” and their first hit single, “Whole Lotta Love.” Dixon would later sue the band for plagiarism.

So why is Willie Dixon not mentioned among the greats of modern music? Part of the reason might be that the role of a songwriter is often underappreciated. Dixon isn’t the only songwriter who suffers from undeserved lack of fame amongst the general public (Leiber and Stoller instantly come to mind). Like producers, songwriters are often the secret to an act’s success, and yet a secret they remain. Another factor is the relative obscurity of the blues itself. Despite begetting rock n’ roll, jazz, and American music as we know it, the blues has been largely forgotten. For most people, music history begins with Elvis, or perhaps Sinatra. It’s difficult to ignore the racial aspect of this selective memory, as Chuck Berry or Little Richard or any jazz musician before Benny Goodman could attest. But whether they take the form of an old blues jam, a 70’s rock anthem, or a hip-hop sample, the many fruits of Willie Dixon will live on–whether or not his name lives with them.

Here are some famous Dixon-penned tunes:

“Hoochie Coochie Man”

When you think of the blues, this song is probably what comes to mind. First recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954, “Hoochie Coochie Man” could be considered Dixon’s magnum opus.

“I Just Want To Make Love To You”

Recorded by the Stones, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Etta James, Foghat, and just about everybody else, this song might be Dixon’s most well-traveled tune.

“Back Door Man”

Recorded originally by Howlin’ Wolf, this song is usually associated with the Doors, whose chill-inducing cover fits their sound so well that it’s amazing Jim Morrison didn’t write it.

“I Can’t Quit You Baby”

Later memorably recorded by Zeppelin, this song was originally written for–and about–Otis Rush, and his powerful vocal performance proves it.

“Wang Dang Doodle”

Another song originally written for Howlin’ Wolf, the definitive version of this tune has to be Koko Taylor’s hauntingly fierce interpretation, featuring Dixon himself singing along in the chorus.

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Remember, no matter what genre you’re into, WUD Music has you covered. Like us on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter (@WUDmusic) to stay up to date on all the artists and bands playing the Rathskeller, the Terrace, or the Sett each week.

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Saturday Night Blues Fest: The Right Now, Kane Place Record Club, & Johnny Chimes and Gatur Bait

Just in case you didn’t get the memo, tonight, Friday night, The Terrace will be full of soul because of Blues Fest. And just so that you enjoy as much Blues as you can, Blues Fest continues Saturday night on The Terrace as well, with bands The Right Now, Kane Place Record Club and Johnny Chimes and Gatur Bait.

The Right Now is a band of six talented musicians that are just recently stirring up the pop/blues pool of music. Originally from Chicago, The Right Now has shared stages with bands such as Fitz and The Tantrums, Otis Clay, Kings Go Forth, and Tortured Soul. They have also performed at SXSW, North Coast Festival and Summerfest. With all of their touring, they just have recently released their newest album Get Over You. The album is full of pain, but empowerment after a regretful relationship. The Vinyl District praised The Right Now for their new album Get Over You saying, “the group, fronted by powerful leading lady, Stefanie Berecz, breathes new life into the torch, soul, and R&B traditions. If Joss Stone fronted Fitz and the Tantrums, you might end up with something like what The Right Now have accomplished on this record.” Songs for instance, “Half As Much,” or “Ain’t Going Back” have beats that come from the soul and grab your attention with Stefanie Berecz’s voice.

Just before The Right Now performs, Kane Place Record Club will join us for Blues Fest. Coming from Milwaukee, these group of guys know how to jam with soul but stay unique to themselves. The Express Milwaukee thinks so too, since they stated that Kane Place Record Club has “definitely captivated by soul and R&B, [and] the band has little interest in merely duplicating the works of others.” The reason why their songs are intriguing is because they combine fast pace beats with sultry R&B. You can hear it in their song “Sunshine,” which you can download at the bottom of this page.

Earlier on in the night though, we will greet Johnny Chimes & Gator Bait to the stage. A Madison person himself, Johnny Chimes creates R&B with an addition of rock in order to capture the moment of soul. He’s had the pleasure of performing for 35 years and is still going to bring us his classic jazz/rock/blues sound. Experimentation with instruments can be heard in songs like “No Brag, Just Fact” and “The Language of Love.” Come join him and Gaitur Bait to kick off the night of Blues.

So there you have it- now you must be on The Terrace this Saturday night to continue Blues Fest all weekend long. For just a little preview of the night, check out the videos below and download “Sunshine” by Kane Place Record Club.

The Right Now:

Download >> Kane Place Record Club – Sunshine

Johnny Chimes & Gaitur Bait:

Friday Night on The Terrace: Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons + Stolen Silver

Here’s a combination that you will most certainly want to partake in: sitting on a classic Union chair, gazing out at moonlit waves of Lake Mendota and becoming mesmerized by the soulful, blues-rock artists Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons and Stolen Silver.

This Friday, Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons headline the night to bring citizens of Madison their unique bluesy feel. Originally from Babbitt, MN and Appleton, WI, Cory Chisel has moved throughout the states searching for music inspiration. The son of a preacher, Chisel grew up sheltered from pop music, but still managed to develop a talent for music. Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons’ song, “Born Again,” which was co-written with Brendan Benson, describes Chisel’s mixed feelings toward his religious background. Rolling Stone also named Chisel one of the “Best New Artists” of 2009 for “Death Won’t Send a Letter” (though he’d already made four albums by then). The chill guitar tones and expressive lyrics deserve to be recognized.

Friday’s show comes on the heels of Tuesday’s release of Old Believers, which was inspired by George Harrison and Elvis Costello. You can preview the entire album over at AOL.The album has been eagerly awaited, with Rolling Stone premiering song “I’ve Been Accused” months ago. Chisel is poised to establish himself as one of the most prominent blues-rock artists in the nation, which is why we’re honored to host this free show featuring a hometown hero.

Opener Stolen Silver who has been gaining their own traction in the Chicago area. This melodious band combines folk and rock genres to create their varying sound. Steve Forsteneger from the Illinois Entertainer describes Stolen Silver as, “oaken harmonies to fit somewhere between Fleet Foxes and Seryn… you can call them the local chapter of Bon Iver-induced soft-rock revival.” Their debut self-titled album includes diverse songs, such as the pop-rock “Please Stay Strong” and acoustic-folk “Favorite Waste of Time.” You can preview or buy the album at their bandcamp.

So, show up at The Terrace at 9:30 to witness these two bands together perform their folk/bluesy creations. What an intriguing night. Check out the video for “Times Won’t Change” below.

This Saturday – Astronautalis w/ Bi-Polar Bear and Hewn

This preview’s going to be really easy to write because Minneapolis-based Andy Bothwell, known as Astronautalis, is one of the most interesting and talented human beings I can think of. So I think one of the best things I could do is give you the facts about him and avoid fluffy rhetoric, and if you don’t want to come to this 9 p.m. show at the Sett by the end, I’m not sure what else I can do for you.

-First, the impressive: Astronautalis’ latest album, This is Our Science, has an average score of 85/100 on Metacritic, which is a collection of ratings of albums by the most respected music criticism publications like Consequence of Sound, Alternative Press, PopMatters, and Under the Radar. By contrast, Adele’s 21, winner of multiple Grammys, has a Metacritic score of 76.

-Andy has a tattoo on his index finger that says “mustache” in cursive, shaped so that when he puts it between his mouth and his nose it looks like he has a mustache. That’s only one of multiple crazy-awesome tattoos he has.

-Astronautalis has collaborated with everyone from Doomtree artists to Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara. The latter sings the hook on his hit, “Contrails,” from This is Our Science (See video and download mp3 below). He and P.O.S. of Doomtree just completed an album based on short fiction by F. Scott Fitzgerald under the name “Four Fists.”

-You love Always Sunny in Philadelphia, right? Well, cast members on that show are fans of Astronautalis, and you can even see a poster of Astronautalis on the wall of Charlie’s apartment on the show.

-Andy studied theater directing and lighting at Southern Methodist University. In fact, he directed Paranormal Activity actress Katie Featherston in multiple plays. But he didn’t make the jump straight from theater to rapping – he’s also been a security guard at an art museum, a substitute teacher, a dishwasher, and is still a member of the sheet metal workers union.

-Astronautalis spent years on the freestyle rap circuit. In fact, at most of his concerts, he takes suggestions from the crowd for about five subjects on which he freestyle raps. It’s truly amazing and has to be seen. Check out this video from a visit to Madison in 2010 in which he raps about Brett Favre, TI-83+ calculators, the Yankees, sleepwalking, and bed bugs (Thanks to Jason for posting this to the Facebook event wall).

So there you have it. But that’s not all, folks – Bi-Polar Bear and Hewn will be getting us started. Hewn takes the stage at 9 p.m. Their Tom Waits-praising sound will be an excellent complement to Astronautalis, one of the many influences he also weaves into his music. After Hewn rocks, Bi-Polar Bear will represent the hip-hop side of things. The duo made a name for themselves before heading to New York City to spread their infectious beats and bold rhymes to the East Coast.

So this is clearly not one to miss. You can avoid doing so by getting down to the Sett for the 9 p.m. start this Saturday. It’s free, so there’s really nothing standing in your way from having an amazing night full of amazing music.

Check out the Facebook event for more details. Watch the “Contrails” video and download the mp3 below.

Download “Contrails” by Astronautalis

Behind the Beat Schedule Set, Tom Ryan Jazz Combo Tomorrow

I’m sure it needs no introduction, but Behind the Beat is our jazz and blues series that takes place at 5 pm at Der Rathskeller every Friday. It’s a perfect atmosphere to have a pitcher and listen to some music while you kick back with some buds after class. It features some of the best acts of their genres, local and otherwise. Pull up a chair!

Want to get a taste? Check out the Tom Ryan Jazz Combo tomorrow. You know Tom as the orange-jumpsuit-wearing piccolo legend that you can often catch playing tunes on State Street. Check out the full schedule below, and make sure to come out to TRJC tomorrow.

1/27/2012 Chris Greene Quartet
2/3/2012 The Tom Ryan Jazz Combo
2/10/2012 Louka Patenaude
2/17/2012 Boo Bradley
2/24/2012  TBA
3/2/2012 Alison Margaret Quartet
3/9/2012 Green Means Go
3/16/2012 TBA
3/23/2012 Sons of Daughters
3/30/2012 N/A Spring Break
4/6/2012 N/A Spring Break
4/13/2012 Luke Polipnick
4/20/2012 Threefifty Duo
4/27/2012 Badger Bone Choir
5/4/2012 TBA
5/11/2012 UW Jazz Orchestra

This Friday: Kids These Days w/ Fresh Cut Collective at The Sett, 9 p.m.

Someday, Kids These Days will out-grow their name, and it seems that day is quickly approaching. The Chicago natives possess talent and maturity well beyond their years, a group of six men and one woman all under the age of 20. How many 20-year-olds do you know that have shared the stage with Snoop Dogg, played to an endless sea of fans at Lollapalooza, and recorded an album with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy producing?

KTD is diverse in every way, blending funk, soul, hip-hop, acoustic rock, and rap to create something truly original. There’s something for everyone, which is why they regularly sell out shows in Chicago and have played with a vast array of popular artists. They attract extremely energetic crowds with their own energy, giving the feeling that each concert is a party. Believe me, this Friday’s show will be a party – and a free one at that!

The action starts at 9 p.m. when Fresh Cut Collective takes the stage, a Milwaukee band that won a WAMI award this year for the best Hip-Hop/Rap act in the state of Wisconsin. That’s no small feat, my friends. They’re an excellent complement to the energy and uniqueness of Kids These Days.

Head to the Facebook event and KTD and FCC‘s band pages for more details. Check out some videos of each band below for a taste of what you can expect to see Friday night.

Tonight in The Sett: Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is, DMF With Nick Nice

Were you born in the wrong era? Do you long to live in the days where you could take a stroll in Motown and run into Barry Gordy, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, or Diana Ross? How about the 70’s – do you find wish you could have seen Lou Rawls live or have a strong urge to “stay together” with Al Green? Charlie Brooks and The Way It Is are the answer to your prayers, and lucky for you their home is in Madtown rather than Motown. Soulful guitar solos, horn sections, and hammond organs are still alive, and this band is evidence.

Charlie Brooks has established himself amongst the finest names of his Motown and soul, having shared bills with Sly and the Family Stone, Percy Sledge, Chicago, Ray Charles, The Supremes, and The Temptations. You know he’s got to have soul to find himself in that kind of company. He’s proof that there are those of us that know the best way to keep our feet warm in this town known for its frigid weather is to dance.

The dancing doesn’t end with Charlie Brooks and Co., either, as Nick Nice will be back yet again to spin songs of a more contemporary nature at DNCE MTHR FCKR at midnight. It’ll be a cool opportunity to witness the evolution of dance music, all while burning some calories. So get yourself to The Sett on Friday to see some local legends do what they do best: get you out of your seats and having a good time.