Dixon was a free- hearted person who would give you the shirt off his back,” recalled Walter “Wolfman” Washington about his long-time friend, bassist Richard “Tricky Dick” Dixon. When Dixon joined Lee Dorsey at the height of Dorsey’s fame in the mid-’60s, he brought along a 19-year-old Washington. Together they played all of the great R&B halls, including the Apollo Theater. “He really helped me to understand what it means to have good friend—he opened a lot of doors for me.”
Richard Dixon, Sr. passed away on August 19, 2015, at the age of 74. I had the privilege of working with Dixon in Eddie Bo’s band. Like most people I know who came into contact with him, we became instant and enduring friends. Those I spoke with all remarked on Dixon’s friendly demeanor and genuine kindness.
“You can’t find people like this anymore”, said keyboardist Tom Worrell, Dixon’s bandmate in Brother Tyrone and the Mindbenders. “There are certain people in your life that resonate, that see you for who you are. He was one of those people.”
Richard Dixon, Jr. echoed the sentiments of his father’s friends. “The same dude y’all knew, that’s the same way he was at home. A big kid. Fishing, motorcycles and music. That was his thing.”
“As a father he was wonderful,” said his daughter Martha “Lou Lou” Ray. “He provided every which way. He was the best.”
Dixon is survived by his sister, 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Self-taught as a bassist, Dixon employed an unorthodox sound and technique, using a thumb pick and dead strings.
“Somehow he was able, even if he didn’t know the tune, to make it work,” said Worrell. “It was all about weird frequencies and stuff; sometimes he wasn’t even hitting exact notes.”
“He developed that himself”, said Washington. “He always played with the downbeat of understanding, where the music’s supposed to be.”
Dixon’s passing dissolves another precious link in the chain to the glory days of New Orleans R&B. Raised in Hollygrove, he started Big Dixon and the Cardinals as a teenager in the 1950s. By the early ’60s he was working with seminal figures Tommy Ridgley and Eddie Bo, and was a full time member of Bo’s band from 1999 until Bo’s death in 2009. He founded the AFBs in the 1970s, featuring Washington and Johnny Adams. Dixon also played with Stevie Wonder, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Ballero, Leo “Mojo” Williams and many others. He was a delivery driver for the Orleans Parish School Board for over 30 years.
Saxophonist Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen knew Dixon from the earliest days of their careers. “He was a happy guy”, said Lewis, “and he always had a groove.”