Who was/is The Dixon Brothers ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

The Dixon Brothers

On radio and records, Dorsey and Howard Dixon entertained audiences across Carolina's textile district with original songs that reflected life in the Depression-ravaged South. With much of their repertoire written by lead vocalist Dorsey Dixon, the Dixon Brothers mixed sacred songs and humorous novelties with compelling sagas about local tragedies and the frustrations of mill work. Their Bluebird records found audiences far from their native Piedmont region. Folklorist John A. Lomax introduced them to Northern urban folk music enthusiasts when he selected Intoxicated Rat for reissue on Victor's 1941 'Smoky Mountain Ballads' anthology. Roy Acuff turned Dixon's I Didn't Hear Anybody Pray into the country hit Wreck On The Highway. Pioneering folk revivalists Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Jean Ritchie covered at least one Dixon song, as have such later figures as the Louvin Brothers, Doc Watson, George Jones, Townes Van Zandt and Brook Benton.

Dorsey Murdock Dixon was born October 14, 1897, in Darlington, South Carolina. Born prematurely, he weighed only three pounds and barely survived through infancy. His brother Howard Britten Dixon was born June 19, 1903, in nearby Kelleytown. Their parents primarily supported their seven children by sharecropping and working in Darlington cotton mills.

By age 15, Dorsey Dixon was playing violin and guitar, while his younger brothers Howard and Tommy sang close harmonies. After Tommy died in 1920 at age 15, Dorsey and Howard began singing together.

After five years as a railroad signalman, Dorsey left in 1920 to become a weaver in the Darlington Mill. Howard joined him there as a 'floater,' filling in on various jobs as needed. In 1925 Dorsey moved to Rockingham, North Carolina, to weave for the Hannah Pickett Mill. Howard and his family soon followed him. The brothers formed a duo, Dorsey playing fiddle and Howard accompanying him on guitar. In 1931 they attended a private concert by Jimmie Tarlton, a fellow mill worker who played steel guitar and sang tenor with Tom Darby on a popular string of Columbia Records. After the brothers sang a few numbers, Tarlton showed Dorsey how to play with finger picks. Shortly afterward, Howard bought a cheap guitar, raised the strings off the fingerboard and began experimenting with a steel bar across an open tuning.

While running sixteen looms, Dorsey composed Weave Room Blues. It described the hardship of the job and the difficulties of making ends meet on a weaver's wages. When the Rockingham Post-Dispatch published it on February 25, 1932, Dorsey worried it might cost him his job. However, the mill owner loved the song and sought him out on the workroom floor to compliment him.

5. The Midnight Special (& The Golden Gate Quartet)

In early 1934 the brothers successfully auditioned for 'The Crazy Barn Dance,' a new country music show out of WBT in Charlotte. Leaving their jobs in Rockingham, they performed as a duo and as part of J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers. The endless travel and low pay placed a strain on their family lives, and by October 1935 they returned to the mills. However, a Victor talent scout heard their broadcasts and offered the brothers a recording contract.

With their first Bluebird session in Charlotte slated for February 12, 1936, the Dixon Brothers prepared six original songs, including their WBT audience favorite Weave Room Blues. The song appeared on their second Bluebird release. According to Dixon biographer Patrick Huber, Weave Room Blues sold well throughout the Piedmont and led to a competing cover version by Fisher Hendley on Vocalion. Entering oral tradition, it may have inspired Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues, which Pete Seeger recorded in 1947. Both songs have melodic similarities to Edward Laska and Albert Von Tilzer's 1919 pop hit Alcoholic Blues.

Dorsey and Howard Dixon cut 55 songs for Bluebird before disbanding their partnership in 1939. Both men inevitably returned to the mills, Howard in East Rockingham and Dorsey in Greenville, South Carolina. Dorsey moved his family to New York City in 1947, but rejoined Howard at the East Rockingham's Aleo Mill the following year.

Australian record collector John Edwards contacted Dorsey Dixon in the summer of 1960. His affectionate fan letter implied that other collectors were eager to have the Dixon Brothers record again. This rekindled Dorsey's interest in performing, but Howard, still disheartened by his music business experience, wanted no part of it. Still, Dorsey remained optimistic about the prospect until he learned of Edwards' death in a Christmas Eve 1960 auto accident. Six weeks later Howard Dixon suffered two heart attacks while at work and died in a hospital. He was 57 years old.

Dorsey Dixon's music career had an unexpected coda. In 1961 folklorists Archie Green and Ed Kahn interviewed Dixon in his East Rockingham home. The following year Green and collector Eugene Earle returned to East Rockingham with professional recording gear. Reluctant to perform at first, Dixon eventually recorded enough material for an album, 'Babies In The Mill.' Released on Pete Welding's Testament label, it led to Dixon's appearance at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival. Never in good health, he suffered a heart attack on October 1964, shortly before starting a northern concert tour. Unable to care for himself, he moved into his son's home in Plant City, Florida. Dixon died April 18, 1968.

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Folk And The Roots Of American Music Vol. 1 (3-CD)

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Dixon Brothers: A Blessing To People
Art-Nr.: BCD16817

Item in stock

4-CD boxed set (LP-size) with 164-page hardcover book, 121 tracks. Playing time approx. 242 mns. ' Dorsey Dixon is the poet laureate of [America's] textile industry.' - Archie Green. The definitive collection of one of the quintessential Depression-era hillbilly...

$112.04 *

Dixon Brothers: How Can A Broke Man Be Happy
Art-Nr.: CDACM4022

Currently not available

(2003/ACROBAT) 23 tracks, recorded in the 30s

$9.32 *