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When trying to cover every single record that was issued in the entire history of rock ‘n’ roll you hope that the more prolific artists are among the more skilled, more experimental or at least more interesting ones, but that’s not always the case.

Part of this is due to the fact that the really good artists generally remain entrenched at one record label who space out their releases judiciously to allow each one to reach the maximum potential audience before issuing another.

But lesser acts find themselves in demand and free to record for any company looking to put out a few stop-gap singles in their release schedule hoping to catch lightning in a bottle.

And so it is with Floyd Dixon, who is turning up like a bad penny around here, his flaws never seeming to get addressed because his comparative strengths are just enough to keep people interested in what he’s churning out.


If I Had Only Listened To What My Mother Said
Until recently the discography of Floyd Dixon had been pretty straightforward. His solo work appeared on Modern Records and while fronting Eddie Williams & His Brown Buddies, where he cut his best sides to date, he was on Supreme Records.

But when Modern wouldn’t front him the money to bury his mother he signed a cash deal with Peacock, who released their first side on him last month, and now Modern started pulling out the remaining sides from the vault to counter that, none of which helped his sales for anybody.

As always with Floyd Dixon he was continually undercut by his own lack of business sense, an overly trustworthy nature while swimming with sharks, and his artistic malleability which meant he’d give those labels any type of song they desired even at the expense of forging a more consistent artistic persona.

Case in point, Play Boy Blues, yet another song whose despondent outlook contrasts with his nimble piano work leaving you wondering which constituency he’s trying to appeal to here.


If You Ever Make A Mistake
First the strengths, for nobody deserves to be known for just their weakest points.

Though he rarely got a chance to really pound the piano and show off a more uptempo brand of playing, Floyd Dixon was a solid pianist who effortlessly filled in with whatever was needed on almost every record he was a part of.

Here on Play Boy Blues, two words rather than one (though it’s doubtful the Bihari brothers took their hands out of somebody’s pockets long enough to use them to open a dictionary – as on this they swipe half the songwriting credit under the alias Taub), Dixon chips in with some very dexterous melodic embellishments that are the thing which grabs your attention as the song plays.

It never really goes anywhere and he mostly bows out during the instrumental break, letting the guitarist – who does just fine in a similar approach – take the spotlight, but despite the crawling pace that often is a detriment for such things this is a track with plenty to admire in terms of playing skill and because of that you’re far more likely to pay attention to Dixon’s morose lead which is where he starts to give back some of the credit he just earned.

My Life Ain’t Worth A Dime
Eventually, after you’ve been fooled by enough misleading titles, you might start to focus more on the artist’s reputation rather than a literal meaning of whatever is adorning the label.

We’re still not quite at that point unfortunately and so for those of you who saw the words Play Boy Blues and expected something self-assured if not over-confident… well, this is Floyd Dixon we’re talking about, someone with a built-in inferiority complex it seems who never fails to walk under the one cloud on an otherwise sunny day.

At least he frames this downcast song right, by saying he USED to be a playboy and isn’t any more, as “now that he’s old” those days are over. For the record he was all of twenty-one… old for a kindergarten student or a Boy Scout, but not old for what he’s singing about.

Still, after you get past those irregularities the rest of the story is pretty solid, as he’s bemoaning his egotistical attitude in days gone by when he was full of himself and apparently got his fill of women that left him cold. So at second glance the title fits, since in this case the “Blues” tag at the end wasn’t just a throwaway word for convenience sake.

In this context his sleepy nasal vocal tone is hardly the detriment it’d be otherwise, but fitting though it may be it still doesn’t make it any more exactly enthralling to listen to. He manages to stay in key however and doesn’t lose his way when it comes to pace and even throws in a melodic variation on one of the repeated lines in this 12 bar blues form, giving it a little twist for those paying closer attention who may otherwise have been growing bored.

That said though, while it’s effective for its limited aims, these ARE still very limited aims he’s trying to get across and so its generic plot, lack of any memorable lines and given the absence of the least bit of vocal excitement makes this something of a slog to get through as a stand alone record.

But in the bigger context of rock ‘n’ roll circa 1950 this wouldn’t be a bad record to break up a string of livelier tunes on the jukebox or at a party. It’s not a slow dance song because of the theme, but it’s obviously well played enough to pass muster to the real music aficionados while there’s no wrong steps made in the delivery to be off-putting those paying just cursory attention.

Not the best endorsement maybe, but hardly a warning to stay away either.

I Can Give You Some Advice
Though this is a perfectly acceptable record for rock – or even for cocktail blues, his other frequent destination – it’s not anything that was really going to propel him further ahead in the pecking order in any field.

Its charms were more discreet, requiring paying attention to its details more than most rock records, and even when you did Play Boy Blues provided just modest returns for that investment.

Because Floyd Dixon was capable of delivering pretty well-written songs in a variety of musical forms, all of which had a large enough audience to be deemed a pretty fair bet to do more than just break even for a singer with good name recognition, he was going to keep being asked to fill each record company’s short term needs rather than given the opportunity to build a more durable long-term image for himself… at least one that might have the potential to prevent him from being saddled with journeyman status.

That he did most of what he was called on to do pretty well – and very consistently to boot – it meant he might be the ace of the journeyman team, but that was all he was ever likely to be. Good enough to always find work, not great enough to not need to keep working to earn a living.


(Visit the Artist page of Floyd Dixon for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)