Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World Boogie Is Coming

On the inner groove of Beale Street Saturday Night, amongst the various engravings that exist on old LPs, are four words in quotations: "WORLD BOOGIE IS COMING." This was a saying of Jim Dickinson's, who died on Saturday. His contribution to American music puts him in the company of men like his mentor Sam Phillips, about whom he said: "...God created all men equal. I think God gave Sam just a little extra." The same could be said about him.

I never met Dickinson, and always just took it for granted that someday I would. I saw him play a few times in intimate surroundings here in New York: first at the Lakeside Lounge, accompanied by Eric Ambel (who wrote a fine tribute to Dickinson HERE) and again at Joe's Pub a few years later. Sometime in the late 90s, I was in Memphis, and went to meet writer Robert Gordon for lunch at a midtown deli. As we sat there eating our sandwiches, Robert looked up and out the window. "Is that Dickinson?" he said. He paused for a moment, as we watched him amble across the street and past us. "He must be coming from the bank...Dickinson takes care of a lot of things, but himself is not one of them."

Apparently, there was a lot of truth to that statement. He loved the Bar-B-Q--maybe a little too much-- and earlier this year Dickinson underwent heart surgery, and never made a full recovery.

In Gordon's book It Came From Memphis, Dickinson recalls his early education in suburban Memphis:

"Everybody learned it from the yardman." says Dickinson. "Alex Tiel taught me everything he thought was important to teach a nine-year-old white boy. How to shoot craps, how to throw a knife underhanded--the important lessons in life. When it came to something he didn't know, he brought in an expert. He wasn't a musician, but he sang as he worked, unaccompanied, and when he realized I was interested in music, he brought in a man who taught me this technique that I learned to play from."

And so Dickinson's piano lessons began.

James Luther Dickinson went on to play in numerous bands in Memphis. In 1969, when the Rolling Stones were recording in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, he went down to hang out, and ended up playing piano on "Wild Horses" --apparently Stu couldn't play minor chords on the piano--he was also present and (probably) helped with the arrangement of their version of Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Got To Move" which was also recorded that day. In the early seventies, with a group of fellow Memphians--The Dixie Flyers-- he went to Miami, as the backing band for countless Atlantic Record sessions; played on and produced Ry Cooder's first records, and later a handful of soundtracks (including Paris, Texas); recorded his own record, the classic Dixie Fried in 1972, following it up late in life with a string of great solo LPs. As a producer, he worked with Alex Chilton as a solo artist, and helped craft the collection of songs known as Big Star's Third. Later, he produced The Replacements, Toots Hibbert, Green on Red, Chuck Prophet, Amy LaVere, and many others including his sons, The North Mississippi All-Stars. In 1997, he played keyboards on Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, and when Dylan received a Grammy for the record, he thanked his "Brother," Jim Dickinson. His accomplishments are far and wide, and it's doubtful there will ever be anyone quite like him again. The world is a different place, and a better place for him having been a part of it.

Flags in Fluville are flying at half-mast.


Beale Street Saturday Night, 1978.
out of print


liner notes by Stanley Booth

Both sides of this LP are presented in their entirety,
they are long continuous tracks.

Side One: mp3
Side Two: mp3


Here are some of Dickinson's great recordings, as a frontman, multi-instrumentalist sideman, producer, arranger, and recording artist. This is really just the tip of the iceberg.

"You'll Do It All The Time" mp3
by Jim Dickinson And The New Beale Street Sheiks, 1964.
available on It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2

"Cadillac Man" mp3
by the Jesters, 1966.
available on Sun Records 50th Anniversary Collection

"Back For More" mp3
by Lawson & Four More, 1966.
available on It Came from Memphis, Vol. 2

"Uptight Tonight" mp3
by Flash And The Memphis Casuals, 1966.
available on It Came from Memphis

"Where Is The D.A.R. When You Really Need Him" mp3
by Jerry Jeff Walker, 1970.
with the Dixie Flyers
available on Bein' Free

"Your Own Backyard" mp3
by Dion, 1970
with the Dixie Flyers
available on King of the New York Streets

"Have You Seen My Baby?" mp3
by the Flamin Groovies, 1971.
available on Teenage Head

"Boomer's Story" mp3
by Ry Cooder, 1972.
available on Boomer's Story

"Casey Jones (On The Road Again)" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 1972.
available on Dixie Fried

"Kangaroo" mp3
by Big Star, 1975.
available on Third/Sister Lovers

"Fight At The Table" mp3
by Chris Bell, 1975.
available on I Am the Cosmos

"Rock Hard" mp3
by Alex Chilton, 1979.
available on Like Flies on Sherbert

"Red Headed Woman" mp3
by Jimmy Dickinson & The Cramps, 1984.
available on Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease

"Tina, The Go-Go Queen" mp3
by Tav Falco's Panther Burns, 1985.
available on Sugar Ditch Revisited

"Tossin' N' Turnin'" mp3
by The Replacements, 1987.
available on Pleased to Meet Me

"Hard To Handle" mp3
by Toots Hibbert, 1987
available on Toots in Memphis

"Power To The People" mp3
by Mud Boy & The Neutrons, 1993.
available on They Walk Among Us

"Dirt Road Blues" mp3
by Bob Dylan, 1997.
available on Time Out of Mind

"JC's NYC Blues" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 2002.
available on Free Beer Tomorrow

"Somewhere Down The Road" mp3
by James Luther Dickinson, 2006.
available on Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger

more on Jim Dickinson at The Hound Blog


C. said...


I had a feeling you were going to do a Dickinson tribute, and this is a really fine one. Thanks--esp. for Beale St. Saturday Night, which i've never heard...


Anonymous said...

well I`m glad to see someone appreciates the legacy of Jim...
thanks boogie woogie...

Maxim said...

Thanks for this - Beale St Sat Night was the one record missing from my JLD collection. Now if I could just find me a copy'a JD and the Hoods doin' Rumble, oh yeah and also bring the man himself back to life to tell the story of how it got recorded, that'd be pretty much all I want for Xmas.

Mr. Lee said...

Thanks for the fantastic tribute and the songs, especially the Beale St. Saturday Night LP.

Anonymous said...

thank you, jim was a close friend i was hoping to see some recognition on the web. He wil be missed greatly.

Anonymous said...

A tender tribute. Thanks. W.

Joe Ehrbar said...

Excellent tribute. I'd also like to add that the Mudhoney album Jim produced in 1998, Tomorrow Hit Today, was terrific, hand's down the band's finest moment.

Unknown said...

Hey Man- Thanks for the stuff. Any idea how I could get to hear the Mudboy & the Neutrons cd's?
Ken Viola

Anonymous said...

thank you

terry said...

Great tribute ,but more importantly good to read your thoughts and listen to your influences. Thanks welcome back

Anonymous said...

I lived in Memphis in the '90s. I met Dickinson a couple of times. The second time was the day I left Memphis (for good, it turned out) to move to Boulder, Colorado. It was in record store on Union Avenue. Jim Dickinson was buying a Fleetwood Mac CD. He said he was interested in how they got that drum sound. I told him how his work had changed my life, how "Like Flies on Sherbert" and "Dixie Fried" and "Beale Street Saturday Night" (I had bought that latter LP on Beale Street in around 1992) had twisted my head around. Maybe he had heard all that before, but he was nice to me.

Years later I interviewed him for a piece I wrote for "No Depression." This was at the time of "Killers from Space," which I think is his most consistent solo record. He was still nice and gave me a lot of great stuff to work with, I sensed that he, like Sam Phillips (whom I once sighted from not very far away in a bar on Beale Street, kind of like seeing William Randolph Hearst or someone equally outsized walking around in some pedestrian mall), was always thinking in terms of boiling stuff down to a pithy essence for people whose misconceptions were, to be honest, probably even more pronounced than mine. About American music and what it takes to make it (music, not success).

I also saw Jim Dickinson perform a couple of times. I vividly remember him doing this song that B. B. King had done in the late '70s, "Never Make a Move Too Soon," at a show on Mud Island. He was good, good choice of material. And I saw Mud Boy & the Neutrons once, at a place on Main St. in Memphis--I think it was this southwestern/Pacific Rim eatery called Automatic Slim's Tonga Club, or something real '90s-sounding like that. They were a bunch of grown men doing "Little Queenie" and I thought they were great. This was obviously before Lee Baker (whose guitar adds so much to "Sherbert") died.

As a song-picker, Dickinson was up there with any of the similar Memphis personages who took pride in coming up with cool covers of totally obscure songs, or totally "inappropriate" songs. I think he was a great producer but it could be I'll remember Dickinson as fondly for making me appreciate numbers like "Hungry Town" and "Roly Poly" and "Wine." Or "Can't Beat the Kid." And I think that "Beale Street Saturday Night" (with the excellent liners by Stanley Booth) should be taught in public schools as a reminder of how specific locales can create world culture...and world boogie. And how neglect can do more for MUSICAL culture than canonization--unless you think Nashville's contribution to said culture is more vital than Memphis'. Something to do with the blues.

Fritsch said...

Thank you, Ted. Sad & great! All the best & safe travels, Fritsch.

Darren said...

Thank you oh thank you! I came for the boogie, stayed for the rockabilly.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this and it's wonderful. Thank you Ted.