VICKSBURG FACTS: Willie Dixon wanted to provide a Blues education

Published 8:00 am Friday, August 19, 2022

By Vera Ann Fedell | The Vicksburg Post

Did you know that Willie Dixon wanted to give people an education in the Blues?

Willie Dixon, a Vicksburg blues legend, founded the Blues Heaven Foundation in 1982. For the longest time, it was a dream and goal of Willie Dixon to provide a place where people could learn about the Blues and the impact it makes on people’s lives. 

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Dixon was a predominant figure in the Blues music industry with his poetic writing and his ability to play various instruments, such as the upright bass. However, during his music career, he wanted people to understand where the Blues came from and what it means. Dixon would describe the Blues as “The Facts of Life.”

According to Cary Baker’s 1971 interview with Dixon, the Blues explains various facts of life that allow people to relate to each other.

And Blues came from the various experiences that people have had in life, all their life, and people decide they’re going to sing about it,” Dixon said in the 1971 interview. 

Dixon explained how people often think of the Blues as a story full of nonsense simply because they misunderstood the expression and meaning of the songs.

“All of these are the facts of life. And when the world understands this as the facts of life and quits trying to ridicule people because they think this is just something they made up, then they’d make a better understanding,” Dixon said in the 1971 interview. 

Dixon also intended for Blues Heaven Foundation to also be an organization that would aid future Blues artists and helps existing Blues artists during their careers. While developing the Blues Heaven Foundation, Dixon also created the Blues Factory, a place for children to learn a trade in the music industry. This included learning how to play an instrument or how to craft an instrument or sing as he stated in the Cary Baker 1971 interview. It was a place to help children stay off the streets and get a Blues education.

“Even when he came to visit us in Vicksburg, Willie would ask if he could host a lesson for any kids or teenagers in the area that want to learn how to play some chords,” said Timmie Fedell, owner of Michel’s Record Shop. 

Now, this nonprofit organization is located in the historic Chess Records building on South Michigan Ave. in Chicago, Ill., where pivotal Blues and rock artists had music produced and released such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Etta James, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, according to the Blues Heaven Foundation website. Dixon was also an important figure in Chess Records since he was one of the main songwriters, producers and arrangers for the company. 

In 1993, Dixon’s wife, Marie, purchased the Chess Records building and in September 1997 had it restored and donated to the Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation as its new home, according to the Blues Heaven Foundation website.

Today, people can visit and tour the many exhibits about the Blues and attend many events to further their Blues education.