In my mind, Willie Dixon was the central architect of the Chicago blues. He hand-crafted songs tailored to build Muddy Waters’ and Howlin’ Wolf’s careers. By fitting lyrics and music to their personas and individual styles, he not only helped construct their careers, but he also paved the way for Chess Records to become one of the most influential blues labels of the 20th century.

American Blues musician Willie Dixon (1915 – 1992) performs at the Chicago Bluesfest, Chicago, Illinois, August 10, 1978. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Dixon’s reach stretched across continents. For instance, The Rolling Stones used Dixon’s “I Can’t’ Be Satisfied” as the inspiration for their international mega-hit “Satisfaction.” To be clear, there’s no satisfaction without Willie Dixon. The Stones were one of many–oodles–of bands who covered and/or took inspirations from Willie Dixon on record and in concert. Oodles of them.

In another instance, when Dixon saw five-year-old blues protege Lucky Peterson performing in a club, he took the lad under his mighty wing. The result was an appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and a hit record. At age six, Peterson became the youngest recording artist to hit the Billboard R&B charts. The hit song was co-produced by Dixon.

Dixon was at the center of the blues world during its Golden Age in Chicago. His incredible impact on American music still reverberates, in a very satisfying manner, across the world’s music landscape.

Marty Weil is the editor of @CHIBLUESHISTORY on Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.

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