One of the more underappreciated rock artists of the early to mid 1950’s whose output for a variety of labels was consistently solid but whose versatility may have kept him from establishing a firm musical niche to exploit and left his legacy in any one area somewhat lacking.

Dixon was born in 1929 and was one of many Texan raised pianists of the 1940’s who left for California to find a measure of fame and fortune in the Los Angeles clubs and on the many independent record labels which sprang up in the City Of Angels during the decade. Like many of his brethren he was influenced by Charles Brown, who was among the first to make the pilgrimage to the West Coast and whose specialty was cocktail blues, a more poppish, slightly jazzy style which had made considerable inroads commercially during the mid-1940’s, thanks in large part to Brown’s work with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers.

After winning an amateur talent contest at The Barrelhouse Club the club’s owner, session musician and bandleader Johnny Otis encouraged him to record and Dixon wound up at Modern Records where he cut “Dallas Blues”, a pure blues song that hit the national charts while Floyd, who had only just turned twenty years old, was still earning his living working at a drug store.

In spite of the record’s success Modern immediately had him alter his approach and placed him squarely in the rock field, which is where the majority of his output over the next decade belongs. Yet he remained comfortable in a wide variety of genres, including being able to emulate Charles Brown’s crooning vocal style, and would in fact become one of a handful of singers who recorded with The Three Blazers after Brown left the group. Before that he also cut sides with Eddie Williams, the bassist for The Three Blazers, under the offensive group name Eddie Williams And His Brown Buddies, which were also done primarily in the rock idiom.

Because he was able to credibly execute any style though his body of work didn’t always follow a predictable path, something exacerbated by frequent jumping from label to label each of whom might aim him at a slightly different audience. As most of these companies were located in California, even though they had the reach to score national hits, it wasn’t until arriving at Atlantic subsidiary Cat Records in 1954 that he was as heavily promoted in eastern cities as he had been in the western and southern states which may have further impacted his popularity as his reputation across the country never equaled that which he enjoyed on the West Coast.

As with many rock artists whose most significant work was done in the years prior to the music’s crossover into white America in the mid-fifties, his lack of a reputation with that audience forced him to move back into blues circles in later life. He toured internationally in the latter third of his life bringing him renewed attention, as did The Blues Brothers covering his 1954 classic “Hey Bartender” on their best selling 1978 album ad he was even contracted to write a song for the 1984 Olympics held in his professional home town of Los Angeles.

While his own recording career had an unexpected second act by the 1990’s and he received The Rhythm & Blues Foundations Career Achievement Award along the way which led to him playing various blues and jazz festivals, he never got any official recognition for his most substantial work as a rock artist and thus his place in history has been unjustly relegated to the fringes.

Dixon kept playing music, whatever you called it, until the very end, filming a concert in June 2006. He died just over a month later at the age of 77.
FLOYD DIXON DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):

(Modern 20-664; May, 1949)
Fairly strong first entry in the rock field after initial success just over a month earlier with a pure blues effort that cracked the Top Ten, as this shows that Dixon is more than capable of scoring in this style as well with slightly better material. (5)

(Modern 20-725; December, 1949)
Listless meanderings from from an artist too talented to merely pass time with such uninteresting themes and though it contains some decent instrumental touches they don’t manage to contribute any life to Dixon’s nasal vocals. (2)

(Modern 20-725; December, 1949)
Though its pacing and structure are similar to the underwhelming top side they shore up their deficiencies here by having a more coherent story line and relatable sentiments that go a long way to making this tolerable in spite of its modest aims. (4)

(Modern 20-727; February, 1950)
A song that more than lives up to its title even though the lyrics try and paint a different picture, but the combination of the maudlin music and Dixon’s despondent nasal tone makes this less than compelling to sit through. (3)

(Modern 20-727; February, 1950)
Similarly bleak in outlook as the top side, but marginally better thanks to a little bit more lively backing track featuring Floyd’s nimble piano playing and a story that at least contains some plausible justification for his despondent mood. (3)

(Modern 20-744; April, 1950)
A showcase for guitarist Chuck Norris who is suitably impressive even if the song itself isn’t too memorable thanks to lacking a suitable hook, but as an atmospheric time filler it does its job with Dixon chipping in on piano to earn at least some of that label credit. (5)

(Modern 20-744; April, 1950)
An unfortunate showcase for Dixon’s technical deficiencies, notably his nasal voice and inability to remain in key, which get further exposed by a pace which is far too slow without enough musical support of the melody thereby sinking a composition that had modest potential. (2)

(Peacock 1544; August, 1950)
A genial, if somewhat unusual, song wherein Dixon is praising his girl while pointing out her flaws, but he’s not mean-spirited and the musical accompaniment is subtly clever with his piano, the horns and especially the guitar all contributing good ideas. (5)

(Modern 20-776; September, 1950)
Another workmanlike effort with some really good piano and guitar interplay but beset by the same stylistic uncertainty and nasal vocals that were always Dixon’s Achilles Heel when it came to standing out as something more than just a skilled journeyman. (5)

(Modern 20-776; September, 1950)
Maximizing his strengths, including some of his best work on piano and a well-judged vocal delivery, while minimizing his flaws, results in the best solo effort he’s delivered to date, an emotional performance that goes down easy. (6)

(Aladdin 3069; October, 1950)
With a racy subject and a producer in Maxwell Davis who knows how to bring out the best in his artists, Dixon finally delivers a classic rock song that gives us all the things the genre was notorious for – sex combined with sensual churning riffs. (8)

(Aladdin 3069; October, 1950)
Leaning more towards cocktail blues than may be recommended, complete with some classy Johnny Moore guitar work, this manages to incorporate just enough touches – Dixon’s sly lyrics and Maxwell Davis’s sultry sax – to keep it viable as a borderline rock song. (6)

(Aladdin 3075; November, 1950)
Another duet with Mari Jones isn’t quite as salacious as their last pairing, but still plenty suggestive with the two of them playfully trading barbs while Maxwell Davis delivers a quality sax solo over a steady rhythm that gives this all the credibility it needs as a rocker. (7)

(Modern 20-797; January, 1951)
Ethically this is hardly excusable as he lifts Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie” in every conceivable way, from melody to vocal delivery, yet sonically it works better thanks to some vivid lyrics of his own and the arrangement, with a guitar added, is still as addicting as ever. (6)

(Modern 20-797; January, 1951)
A standard Dixon theme using the same low-key delivery and maudlin sentiments without too much depth to the story, but his sincerity and a really solid arrangement, including his own playing alongside Maxwell Davis and Chuck Norris, elevate this enough to suffice. (5)

(Aladdin 3078; January, 1951)
A song cut last summer for Peacock Records and bought by Aladdin, this was a solid mid-paced rocker that would be welcome on any label with Dixon’s vocal charm evident throughout and if the story’s a bit vague it hardly matters when you’re dancing. (6)

(Aladdin 3078; January, 1951)
Despite a pretty good arrangement with a rather ambitious piano solo thrown in, the lyrics to this are a little crude at first and they definitely don’t match Dixon’s mournful vocal tone which makes this seem as though he’s not aware of what he’s even singing. (3)

(Aladdin 3083; April, 1951)
Though it’s a pretty blatant rip-off of Amos Milburn, it’s also a very good rip-off with some vivid lyrics and colorful characters, a revamped arrangement and some of Dixon’s best vocals making this an unexpected minor gem. (7)

(Aladdin 3101; July, 1951)
Musically this gentle melodic tune works fine thanks to some understated playing, but lyrically it’s a mess with none of it making any sense all of which is further compromised by Dixon’s nasal vocals, meaning the closer you listen the worse it comes off. (3)

(Aladdin 3101; July, 1951)
An ambitious “failure” highlighted by guitarist Oscar Moore’s flamenco-derived playing which lends an exotic air to Dixon’s attempts to be lyrically mysterious and while he’s not a good enough singer to pull it off, he gets an A+ for effort on a really intriguing record. (5)

(Aladdin 3135; June, 1952)
His biggest hit is perfectly suited for his sad sack delivery with a hint of underlying confidence in how he seems to expect his girl to reach out to mend their relationship amidst an effective late night vibe in a well constructed song and arrangement. (6)

(Aladdin 3135; June, 1952)
The far more rockin’ flip side to the hit is equally good in its own way, mostly centered around the band with some sneaky guitar fills, Dixon’s piano and Maxwell Davis’s lusty sax which almost deserves lead artist credit even though Floyd’s vocals are hardly letting you down. (6)

(Aladdin 3144; August, 1952)
A dirty sex record is delivered in such a way that it’s possible to overlook its content, as Dixon croons effectively about what on the surface is nothing more than a light snack, but in reality is something much more flavorful. (6)

(Aladdin 3144; August, 1952)
Though this doesn’t deviate at all from the arrangement of Little Caesar’s weeks-old original other than some added vocal echo, Dixon is perfectly suited for this suicidal lament and benefits from typically classy playing by Maxwell Davis’s crew. (7)

(Aladdin 3251; October, 1952)
A very well-crafted and arranged song that’s capably sung and played with a sure hand by the small four piece band, yet because it leans so much into blues territory it’s not landing well with rock audiences in spite of its overall quality. (5)

(Aladdin 3251; October, 1952)
Another excellent song and performance that is a little too bluesy to fully connect in rock circles, though this one has a more recognizable structure that with a slightly faster pace would’ve fit in better even if it would’ve invalidated the downbeat message. (6)

(See the artist page and discography of Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies for more work featuring Floyd Dixon)