George Dixon

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This multi-instrumentalist, who played as many axes as a first-rate school band teacher, is one of the few musicians from New Orleans who didn't play a note until he had left the gumbo city in the distance.…
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This multi-instrumentalist, who played as many axes as a first-rate school band teacher, is one of the few musicians from New Orleans who didn't play a note until he had left the gumbo city in the distance. He moved around with his father, a minister, throughout various parts of the South and first picked up an instrument at the age of 13 while they were residing in Natchez, Mississippi. The first of what would be many instruments that Dixon would play was a violin, which he continued studying in the mid-'20s at Arkansas State College. Eventually he led the school band there and began doubling on the alto saxophone.

He moved to Chicago in 1926 and began gigging both there and in nearby Gary, Indiana. Dixon would become closely associated with bandleader and pianist Earl Hines through the '30s, a lucky link-up as it provided not only steady playing opportunities but much exposure to creative players and thoughtful, ambitious arranging. But it was the earlier bandleader Sammy Stewart, with whom Davis began playing in 1928, who encouraged this player's instrumental versatility, making use of his new talents on trumpet as well as the violin and saxophones. Stewart took Davis on tour to New York City in 1930, but the offer from Hines was all the reason needed to blow back to the Windy City.

With the exception of his activities in the Navy, which included leading a military band at the Memphis base, Dixon was pretty much associated with Chicago for the rest of his career. From the mid-'40s he freelanced in various combos with Chicago players such as Floyd Campbell, Ted Eggleston, and many others. Dixon started his own group during this period, holding forth steadily at the Circle Inn. Although he dropped music as his full-time occupation in the early '50s, Dixon continued to gig on one, some, or all of his instruments until his death. He should not be confused with George W. Dixon, one of the revolving members of the soul vocal group the Spinners.