Floyd Dixon - Blues pianist, vocalist ( 1929 - 2006)
This critically acclaimed performer - best known for his 1954 song "Hey Bartender" - stood alongside Charles Brown, Ray Charles and Louis Jordan as one of a few artists who helped transform swing music into Rhythm & Blues.
A wonderful exponent of what is often referred to as West Coast blues, more piano based and jazz influenced than much of the blues and R&B referenced in the Primer, Floyd is a leading practitioner of this 'California style'. Both the state and the style played host to a great many post war Texas bluesmen, and the jazzy T-Bone Walker approach became a mainstay of the genre.
Born J Riggins Jr., Dixon began playing piano and singing as a child and in Texas he was exposed to a range of blues and gospel influences, as well as a little jazz and hillbilly.
His family moved to Los Angeles in 1942 when Floyd was thirteen and it was here that Dixon came into contact with Charles Brown, a major musical influence throughout his working life. To an extent Brown took the young piano player under his wing and when Johnny Moore's Three Blazers split up, Dixon had learned more than enough to act as a natural replacement for the Brown sound - he made a number of early Brown style recordings with Eddie Williams (the original Blazers' bassist) and with Johnny Moore's new Blazers line-up for both the Aladdin and Combo labels.
Floyd also recorded extensively with his own trio, signing with Modern Records in 1949 and adding the influences of jump blues stalwarts Louis Jordan and Amos Milburn to the urban sophistication of Charles Brown. He had his early successes with Modern, securing a top ten R&B hit with 'Dallas Blues' and following it up with the slightly less successful 'Mississippi Blues' (1949). He switched to Aladdin and in the following year scored another hit with 'Sad Eyes', followed by 'Telephone Blues' and 'Call Operator 210'; on the last recording, he was backed by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers.
Dixon switched to the Specialty label in 1952/3 (and the Atlantic subsidiary Cat in 1954) and, although the groove was much the same, he recorded some of his better known material around this time. 'Hey Bartender' is possibly his best known tune and his original version was picked up on by Koko Taylor and by the Blues Brothers on their multi million selling first album.