Stars come together to remember Willie Dixon

Published 9:55 am Monday, July 6, 2015

Mr. Sipp performs Sunday evening during the Willie Dixon 100th birthday celebration at City Auditorium. -- Justin Sellers | The Vicksburg Post

Mr. Sipp performs Sunday evening during the Willie Dixon 100th birthday celebration at City Auditorium. — Justin Sellers | The Vicksburg Post

Willie Dixon was a pioneer of not only blues music, but all other genres to follow; at least that’s what people who love blues music say. Whenever his name is brought up to people who love the blues, it’s one point they’ll argue about his legacy.

David McLaughlin grew up in the Mississippi Delta and will argue that point about Dixon’s legacy.

“Here’s my opinion on Willie Dixon, there’s no music heard in popular culture anywhere around the world,” McLaughlin said. “Whether it’s a sitar player in Bangladesh that’s been influenced by George Harrison of the Beatles, or an all-girls band in Asia that has been influenced by The Rolling Stones or Muddy Waters, if they’ve been influenced by any of those artists they’ve been influenced by Willie Dixon.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Vicksburg Blues Society celebrated the 100th birthday of Dixon, which McLaughlin was excited to attend.

The celebration featured blues musicians such as Bernard Jenkins, Zachariah Lloyd, Eddie Cotton and Mr. Sipp “The Mississippi Blues Child.” Performers paid homage to Dixon by covering his songs in their sets.

McLaughlin was exposed to blues when his uncle gave him a tape with the song “I’m Ready,” sung by Muddy Waters and written by Dixon. He fell in love with the song and Dixon.

“The first blues album I got sent me on the search for who Willie Dixon was and his music moves you,” McLaughlin said.

Shirley Waring of the Vicksburg Blues Society put on the event and was excited for what it means for Vicksburg.

“It’s important for the city and the economic development and to build our image and demand a generator as a blues destination,” Waring said. “It’s a good year to get it going, the 100th year.”

Waring said it was wonderful to see people celebrating Dixon and enjoying the acts. Among the top performances she said fans enjoyed were Castro Coleman — Mr. Sipp — and Bobby Benison, Red Sugar Blues and Mr. Sipp with his band.

While Mr. Sipp was performing with Benison he tried to play the harmonica parts of Dixon’s “My Baby.” He admitted it was his first time attempting to do so and stumbled across some parts, but the crowd laughed it off as he did.

Mr. Sipp brought down the house with his band’s performance. The 2014 International Blues Challenge winner’s performance had people getting out of their seats to dance and tapping their feet to his up-tempo songs. He sang some of his originals including “Hey Pretty Lady” and “Jump the Broom.”

Waring said next year’s celebration will be another three-day event and she appreciates the community’s support.

Hannah Casey came down from Chicago for her first Willie Dixon celebration. Casey represented Bettie Payton-White, wife of Artie “Blues Boy” White, who provides a $1,000 scholarship to study blues music. Casey was there to present Waring with the scholarship to give to a student.

Casey is familiar with the work of Dixon, who left Vicksburg and took his talents to the Windy City.

“My dad was a blues player,” Casey said. “He was a harmonica player and he was a guitar player, and he played with Willie Dixon. His music makes me feel great and I’m a blues lover.”

Casey said blues is a part of the lives of black people and it’s important to remember Dixon.

“We have a beginning with blues and black people have a tendency to say its sadness. But it’s our life,” Casey said. “He should be remembered as a person who told our lives.”