M3 Month Throwback Thursday Edition: Jim Dickinson (Guest Post)
Ed. Note: I'm happy to share with you this guest post by John Miller from the Memphis Music Foundation, who writes about today's Throwback Thursday music artist, Jim Dickinson.
The late Jim Dickinson spent more than forty years in the music world, and his extensive influence resulted in some of the most unforgettable music of the last half of the 20th century. Born in Little Rock and raised mostly in Memphis, as a young person Dickinson loved the Memphis Jug Band and original bluesmen like Furry Lewis. His preternatural understanding of the sounds of the South resulted in a celebrated career as a legendary session musician, band leader, solo artist, and producer.
It all started in Memphis, where Jim’s Dixie Flyers sometimes served as the house band for records on Sun, Stax, and American; later the band worked with Atlantic Records on albums with Aretha Franklin, Jerry Jeff Walker, and others. Dickinson’s talents as a keyboardist allowed him to play on timeless masterpieces by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and many, many more.
Between these, he also released a number of cult classic records: his initial solo effort, "Dixie Fried", as well as three albums with his band Mudboy and the Neutrons (Dickinson, Sid Selvidge, Lee Baker and Jimmy Crosthwait), that Dylan called “…that great band nobody can find.” Along with fellow Neutrons bandmate Selvidge, Jim also put on a number of Country & Blues festivals at the Overton Park Shell, reviving the careers of great blues artists (many of whom now have music reissued through Oxford’s Fat Possum Records).
In addition to all of this, Dickinson is perhaps most famous as a music producer. He began producing albums locally (he was Ardent’s first employee) before gaining national recognition and working all over the country. Jim produced albums for ground-breaking groups like Big Star, Ry Cooder, The Replacements, Primal Scream, and recent GonerFest 10 rockers, Mudhoney. On his production style, Jim once said in an interview with the Oxford American,
"I take the artist up on the mountain, right? I take him out to the edge of the cliff, and I say, 'Come over here. If you really wanna see it, you have to come over here to the edge.' The artist says, 'I don't want to come over to the edge.' I assure them nothing's gonna happen. I get them to come over to the edge, and then, I push them off. They either fly or they fall."
His legacy didn’t stop there. His sons Luther and Cody’s North Mississippi Allstars have kept alive the sounds of the hill country blues. Along with Sid Selvidge’s son, Steve, Lee Baker’s son, Ben, as well as Paul Taylor and original Neutron Jimmy Crosthwait, the group played shows at Minglewood Hall this year under the moniker The Sons of Mudboy. They recorded an album, "Onward and Upward", under that name after Jim’s passing and, unsurprisingly, it won a Grammy.
Dickinson cultivated many current Memphis talents, playing on, mixing, and producing albums for Lucero, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Amy LaVere, Paul Taylor, and more. One of his last contributions is an amazing tribute to Memphis garage rock of the ‘60s, The Trashed Romeos’ "Where Dreamers Never Go".
Jim Dickinson’s legacy will remain an indelible part of the Memphis music landscape. The great man himself said it best, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone.”
About the author: John Miller was born and raised in Memphis, falling in love with the rhythm of the city. He got his start in music working at Archer Records and currently serves as Music Resource Center Manager at the Memphis Music Foundation where he works with and advocates on behalf of an incredible creative community. Music is his biggest passion, but he’s also known to fervently support the Tigers, Grizzlies, Red Sox, and Manchester United and will have words with anyone who suggests Cozy Corner’s ribs are not the best on the planet. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.