b. 27 February 1923, New York City, New York, USA, d. 23 September 2004, New York City, New York, USA. Raised in Harlem where her father was a Baptist minister, Dixon was taught by her mother to play piano. Studying classical music, she at first wanted to play clarinet, but switched to bass. Tutored by Frederick Zimmerman of the New York Philharmonic, she was selected for the All-City High School Orchestra and for the National Youth Association’s Orchestra. Having studied at Brooklyn College she then attended Iona College and in 1942, while still a student, spent three months playing with the International Sweethearts Of Rhythm. Her colour restricted career options; symphony orchestras were out and she was unable even to audition for Phil Spitalny’s popular all-female orchestra. Opting for jazz, she joined the Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines band in 1943, remaining until 1945 when she settled in New York with her husband, trombonist Gus Chappell, and began raising a family. The following year, she formed a six-piece band she named the Starliners, becoming very successful in the city. Among several extended engagements was a 12-year residency at Club Savannah in Greenwich Village. Divorced and remarried, Dixon continued to lead bands in New York and among leading jazzmen of the day she employed were Tyree Glenn, Taft Jordan, George Kelly, Fats Navarro, Sonny Payne and Buddy Tate.
In addition to jazz, Dixon also played Latin and classical music. Her many classical orchestra affiliations include being a founder member, in 1964, and manager of the Symphony Of The New World. As a studio musician, she played in support of artists such as Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, and for almost two decades was in pit bands for dozens of Broadway shows. In 1981 she was a member of an all-female quintet that played at Carnegie Hall as part of a presentation entitled ‘Women Blow Their Own Horns’. She retired in 1996, but following the death of her second husband she played again, now as a member of a trio led by pianist Carli Muñoz. In addition to her busy playing schedule, Dixon was also active in social and cultural affairs and in particular with matters relating to racial prejudice in the music industry.