Popcorn & Poetry: The Forgotten Perfection of Luther Dixon

There’s so many people that crafted and created the legacy of mid 20th Century music that, basically, I keep sustaining my ability to write and pull together such a wealth of material to share with you year after year. It’s one of the joys that I give myself, educating myself even further and then sharing with you.

As we’re in the heart of Leo Season, I get to celebrate a Lion King whose name you may not know, but you decidedly have felt his impact. Whether it’s just a cursory acknowledgment that a John Hughes film is named for one of his signature tunes or you know that his potency on the Brill Building Scene in the early 60’s launched the Girl Group Phenom’s second assault on mainstream audiences, you have felt the warm of Luther Dixon’s creativity.

43794199_135881277801Dixon was born August 7, 1931 in Jacksonville Florida. He however spent most of his early life in Brooklyn, becoming an accomplished singer in the group The Four Buddies. Before chart success found them as singers, they broke up however. In the same time frame, Luther developed a strong ear for penning hit making tunes, placing Top 20 hits with such mainstream white stars as Pat Boone and Perry Como before striking big with “Sixteen Candles” soaring to the penultimate spot on the pop charts in 1958.

Like the slightly older Clyde Otis & Rose Marie McCoy, Luther became one of the few Black people to be well renowned and have quite a bit of autonomy as songwriters and producers in the popular music world of the 1950’s. Of course, some offers at financial support pull people in different directions, and Luther Dixon was no different.

While Florence Greenberg and to an extent Carole King and Gerry Goffin get the Lion’s share of credit for the rise of The Shirelles, it was Luther’s direct collaboration with the group; such as co-writing their first venture into the Top 40 “Tonight’s The Night” with group member Shirley Owens.

Luther Dixon _ Florence Greenberg _ Chuck Jackson _ Marvin SchlacterHe is the person that lead them through all of their essential hits before he decided to leave Scepter Records (and his then mistress Greenberg) behind to start his own label in mid 1963. The lilting style he crafted, merging elements of doo-wop, baion beat and strings set the template for a number of percolating girl group classics globally, and decidedly pushed what us soul DJ’s label as “Popcorn” soul some 60 years on.

I kept the Shirelles featuring, and his run of hit records at a minimum. There’s a healthy number of Shirelles album and b-sides, and covers of his works from the early 60’s that go as far as the early 70’s, when he semi-retired to only produce songs for then wife Inez Foxx. Dixon died 10 years ago, yet his legacy floats right in front of us without much acknowledgement. Hopefully, this mix will rectify some of that injustice.

  1. Anna King – The Big Change
  2. The Tabs – Footsteps (Two Stupid Feet)
  3. Big Maybelle – The Same Old Story
  4. Lenny Miles – In Between Tears
  5. The Shirelles – Oh What A Waste Of Love
  6. Ruth Brown – Honey Boy
  7. The Stereos – Sweet Pea’s in Love
  8. Chuck Jackson – Everybody Needs Love
  9. King Curtis – Take The Last Train Home
  10. Brooks O’Dell – Shirley, Remember Me
  11. The Pretty Things – Big Boss Man
  12. Maxine Brown – Little Girl Lost
  13. Tommy Hunt – Parade of Broken Hearts
  14. Little Billy & The Essentials – The Dance Is Over
  15. Tammy Montgomery – If You See Bill
  16. The Cashmeres – Singing Waters
  17. Jackie Wilson – The River
  18. Jerry Butler – Rainbow Valley
  19. Nat King Cole – Angel Smile
  20. The Passions – Sixteen Candles
  21. Arthur Alexander – A Hundred Pounds of Clay
  22. The Chantels – Eternally
  23. Brooks O’Dell – I Am Your Man
  24. Tommy Hunt – Son My Son
  25. Barbara & Brenda – Too Young To Be Fooled
  26. Brenda & The Tabulations – Oh Lord, What Are You Doing To Me?
  27. Gloria Lynne – Soul Serenade
  28. Inez & Charlie Foxx – A Stranger I Don’t Know
  29. The Buena Vistas – Hot Shot
  30. Barbara & Brenda – Never Love A Robin
  31. Ronnie Dyson – I Don’t Wanna Cry
  32. Little Eva – Mama Said
  33. Eddie Lovette – Too Experienced
  34. The Platters – Devri
  35. The Shirelles – No Doubt About It
  36. The Platters – I Love You 1,000 Times

 

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