Chess Box

The Chess Box

by Willie Dixon
When Willie Dixon titled his autobiography I AM THE BLUES, he wasn't kidding. But his influence over the music world is less apparent than the contributions of some others, because Dixon was force that worked primarily behind the scenes -- as a writer of some of the most potent blues anthems in history and as a highly influential bass player whose work made an


When Willie Dixon titled his autobiography I AM THE BLUES, he wasn't kidding. But his influence over the music world is less apparent than the contributions of some others, because Dixon was force that worked primarily behind the scenes -- as a writer of some of the most potent blues anthems in history and as a highly influential bass player whose work made an important link between the blues and rock 'n' roll. While Dixon also recorded with his group the Big Three, Dixon the writer and player is celebrated on the two-disc CHESS BOX. Which is fine, since Dixon's incomparable compositions run the full gamut from raw to sophisticated, and include such basics of the blues repertoire as "Spoonful," "You Shook Me," "Seventh Son," "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," "I Just Wanna Make Love to You," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," "Back Door Man," "I Can't Quit You Baby," "Bring It on Home," "Little Red Rooster," and "Wang Dang Doodle." Of course, these songs don't sing themselves, and by virtue of his association with the Chess label, Dixon worked with the best in the business. Artists represented on the set include Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Mabon, Little Walter, Jimmy Witherspoon, Lowell Fulson, Bo Diddley, and Otis Rush. There are a few vocal appearances by Dixon as well, but, as you might expect, they pale a bit when with performances by Muddy or the Wolf. Dixon's influence on rock 'n' roll has been well documented -- groups such as the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Foghat, Cream, and Led Zeppelin have sung his songs. But the stuff on THE CHESS BOX is the real deal -- and if you don't believe me, just ask Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, or Jimmy Page.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This was the most unusual, and probably the most difficult to assemble of MCA's Chess Box series, mostly because of the unusual nature of Willie Dixon's contribution to Chess Records. To be sure, Dixon rates a place in the history of the label right alongside that of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Little Walter, but his role was more subtle than that of a performer (indeed, two of the half-dozen recordings here that feature Dixon as a singer were previously unreleased). So he is all over this two-CD set, as a songwriter, producer, and bassist, and occasionally as a singer as well, but the unifying element are the Dixon songs, and he is the only blues songwriter to be honored by a major label with a retrospective of this type. Since he was not the performer on most of this material, but, rather, was working to mesh his material with the styles and sensibilities of a vast range of players, the sounds contained on these two CDs are a lot more varied than on any of the other Chess Box releases -- amplified Delta blues, big band, Mills Brothers-style harmony blues, jazz-influenced jump blues, and near-pop style R&B are all here; guitar pyrotechnics by Muddy Waters or Hubert Sumlin (on the Wolf's records), vocal acrobatics by Little Walter, and rippling performances by Koko Taylor illuminate this set throughout. While some of it, such as Muddy Waters' single of "Hoochie Coochie Man"; Little Walter's "My Babe"; Howlin' Wolf's performances of "Evil," "Spoonful," "Little Red Rooster," and "Back Door Man"; and Lowell Fulson's version of "Do Me Right" are easily available elsewhere, a lot else of what's here is genuinely rare and most enticing -- Dixon's own renditions of "Violent Love," "Crazy For My Baby," and "Pain In My Heart," in particular, are great records, lacking perhaps only a slight measure of the energy that a Muddy Waters brought to recording. Most of the set is concentrated on his blues work -- a pair of hot Bo Diddley sides ("Pretty Thing," "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover") that Dixon wrote are represented, but since he didn't write anything for Chuck Berry, that side of Dixon's history is left out, despite his having played bass on most of Berry's early recordings. Still, it's difficult to imagine anyone complaining over an "excuse" to bring some of the best sides of Muddy, Walter, the Wolf, Diddley, Taylor, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Boy Williamson, Otis Rush, and even Dixon's own '40s outfit, the Big Three together in one release. The sound is impeccable, holding up to standards even a dozen years later, and the set includes a well-illustrated and annotated booklet.

Product Details

Release Date:


Disc 1

  1. My Babe
  2. Violent Love
  3. Third Degree
  4. Seventh Son
  5. Crazy for My Baby
  6. Pain in My Heart
  7. (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
  8. Evil
  9. Mellow Down Easy
  10. When the Lights Go Out
  11. Young Fashioned Ways
  12. Pretty Thing
  13. I'm Ready
  14. Do Me Right
  15. I Just Want to Make Love to You
  16. Tollin' Bells
  17. 29 Ways
  18. Walking the Blues

Disc 2

  1. Spoonful
  2. You Know My Love
  3. You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover
  4. I Ain't Superstitious
  5. You Need Love
  6. Little Red Rooster
  7. Back Door Man
  8. Dead Presidents
  9. Hidden Charms
  10. You Shook Me
  11. Bring It on Home
  12. Three Hundred Pounds of Joy
  13. Weak Brain, Narrow Mind
  14. Wang Dang Doodle
  15. The Same Thing
  16. Built for Comfort
  17. I Can't Quit You Baby
  18. Insane Asylum

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Willie Dixon   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Vocals,Background Vocals,Track Performer
Billy Boy Arnold   Harmonica
Michael Bloomfield   Guitar
Eddie Boyd   Piano,Vocals,Track Performer
Paul Butterfield   Harmonica
Lowell Fulson   Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer
Lloyd Glenn   Piano
Henry Gray   Piano
Buddy Guy   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Earl Hooker   Guitar
Casey Jones   Drums
Little Walter   Harmonica,Vocals,Track Performer
Willie Mabon   Piano,Vocals,Track Performer
Matt "Guitar" Murphy   Guitar,Bass Guitar
Hubert Sumlin   Guitar
Koko Taylor   Vocals,Track Performer
Harold Ashby   Tenor Saxophone
Eddie Chamblee   Tenor Saxophone
Gene Barge   Conductor,Tenor Saxophone
Sam Lay   Drums
Jody Williams   Guitar
Robert Lockwood   Guitar
Big Three Trio   Track Performer
Fred Below   Drums
Bo Diddley   Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer
J.T. Brown   Tenor Saxophone
Howlin' Wolf   Harmonica,Vocals,Track Performer
Little Milton   Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer
Leonard Caston   Guitar,Piano,Vocals
Francis Clay   Drums
Lee Cooper   Guitar
Ernest Cotton   Tenor Saxophone
Duncan   Drums
Donald "Duck" Dunn   Bass
Jarrett Gibson   Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Jerome Green   Maracas,Background Vocals
William K. "Billy" Hadnott   Bass
Donald Hankins   Baritone Saxophone
Clifton James   Drums
Frank Kirkland   Drums
Lafayette Leake   Organ,Piano
Jack Meyers   Electric Bass,Bass Guitar
Muddy Waters   Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer
Bob Neely   Tenor Saxophone
Odie Payne   Drums
Earl Phillips   Drums
Milton Rector   Electric Bass
Jimmy Rogers   Guitar
Otis Rush   Guitar,Vocals,Track Performer
Otis Spann   Piano
Johnny "Big Moose" Walker   Organ,Piano
Percy Walker   Drums
Sonny Boy Williamson   Track Performer
Sonny Boy Williamson [II]   Track Performer
Jimmy Witherspoon   Vocals,Track Performer
Ollie Crawford   Guitar,Background Vocals
Little Sax Crowder   Tenor Saxophone
Johnny Williams   Rhythm Guitar
Johnny Williams   Guitar
Earl Brown   Alto Saxophone
Dave Myers   Guitar

Technical Credits

Willie Dixon   Producer
Gene Barge   Arranger
Calvin Carter   Producer
Andy McKaie   Reissue Producer
Don Snowden   Liner Notes
Chester Burnett   Composer

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