Hollis Dixon

Rock, Pop Vocals, Guitar The Keynotes

Lived in Muscle Shoals, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Hollis Dixon

Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 10:06 p.m.

The worldwide impact of Shoals rock ’n’ roller Hollis Dixon is little known through his name alone, but the musicians he tutored and worked with are, in many cases, household names to fans of pop music.

These are some names you know if you’ve kept up with rock and soul music of the past 40 years: Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Barry Beckett (the Swampers), Travis Wammack, Albert “Junior” Lowe, Gary Baker, Donnie Fritts, Eddie Hinton, Mickey Buckins, Randy McCormick, Spooner Oldham, Ronnie Eades, Lenny LeBlanc, Bob Wray, Dan Penn, Owen Hale and Steve Nathan.

This is the name you probably don’t know: Hollis Dixon.

The connection between the long list of musicians who are known around the world and Dixon is that the success of those players might not have happened without him.

Those versed in the history of the recording industry in Muscle Shoals probably know who Dixon was. Sadly, his influence didn’t attract the kind of attention so justly given to his proteges.

Dixon died Monday night at the age of 75 after struggling with Parkinson’s disease. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. today at Colbert Memorial Chapel in Tuscumbia, with burial in Tri-Cities Memorial Gardens, Florence.

After seeing an up and coming rockabilly pioneer named Elvis Presley perform at the Sheffield Community Center in 1955, Dixon was inspired by what he heard and what he saw. He assembled a band of like-minded players and in 1956 launched Hollis Dixon and the Keynotes, which provided a training ground for Muscle Shoals musicians through the early 1980s. The band, which featured a who’s who of young Muscle Shoals musicians, played college fraternity parties, dances and night clubs, earning a reputation as a crack rock ’n’ roll band. Their speciality, in the early days, was Bo Diddley and Ray Charles.

Many of Dixon’s fans recall the night Diddley was scheduled to play the Florence-Lauderdale Coliseum and canceled the show at the last minute. The Keynotes were called in for the packed venue and rocked the house.

The Keynotes also recorded a regional hit in the early 1960s, “Paper Boy.”

Throughout his career, Dixon resisted the call to greater stardom, preferring instead to hold down a regular job and raise a family. He joked a few years ago that some of his younger proteges might have viewed him as a “square” because he worked full time for the National Guard and kept a short haircut. But he considered his first calling to be a family man, and a musician second.

As Bo Diddley said in one of his most famous songs, “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover.”

Thanks for the music, Hollis.

Source: http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20101028/NEWS/101029804/1015

By Russ Corey Staff Writer

Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

Hollis Dixon

Mike Shepherd said he didn't realize how close he was to Hollis Dixon until he felt a sharp pain after learning of his friend's death Monday.

“Hollis took me under his wing when I was 12 years old, and I played drums with him for about five years,” Shepherd said. “He was kind of like a second dad, so my emotions and my connections run real deep with Hollis. Hollis and I had a bond that I have just become aware of how deep it ran.”

Dixon, 75, the lead singer for Hollis Dixon and The Keynotes, died shortly after 9 p.m. Monday after a bout with Parkinson's disease.

The list of musicians who played in Dixon's bands or were led into the music business with Dixon's help reads like a Who's Who of Shoals music: Jimmie Johnson, Donnie Fritts, Lenny LeBlanc, Barry Beckett, Ronnie Eades, Spooner Oldham, Bob Wray, Dan Penn, Roger Hawkins, Travis Wammack, Owen Hale, Eddie Hinton, Mickey Buckins, Junior Lowe, Randy McCormick, Donnie Srygley and Steve Nathan.

Grammy-winning artist Gary Baker credits Dixon for giving him his first job in music when he arrived in the Shoals.

“I wouldn't have stayed here if it wasn't for Hollis,” Baker said. “He completely and totally made it possible for a lot of us to stay and work.”

Baker said Dixon also taught him a lot about living in the South.

“It's absolutely amazing how instrumental he was to the success of this entire area and what it has done,” Baker said.

Watching Dixon's band was when David Hood first became acquainted with the electric bass guitar, the instrument he's played on countless hit recordings, with the band Traffic and, most recently, The Decoys.

“Hollis Dixon had a profound impact on me and a lot of the musicians of my generation,” Hood said. “He had the first, true rock 'n' roll band around here. It was the first time anybody saw anyone play rock 'n' roll music.”

Dixon's bands played at dances and parties around the Shoals and at fraternity parties at Southeastern Conference universities, bringing the music of Ray Charles, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry to young people who had never experienced live rock 'n' roll.

“I got to work with Hollis, and that was a good training ground,” Hood said. “He was a pretty strict band leader. He expected quality.”

Fellow Swamper, Jimmie Johnson, said his band, the Del Rays, was heavily influenced by Dixon and the Keynotes.

“He's the guy who encouraged us,” Johnson said. “We were kind of groupies of his band. He basically just took us under his wing, and when we got good enough, he actually booked us and got us gigs.”

After the Del Rays broke up, Johnson said he played guitar in Dixon's band.

One incarnation of the band included a young Donnie Fritts on drums.

“Hollis meant so much to all the musicians — I mean all of us,” Fritts said. “It seems like every musician that lived here at one time or another played with Hollis, and you were a better musician than when you started.”

Fritts said Dixon had a great voice and stage presence.

“He was wonderful with the crowd,” Fritts said.

Shepherd said if someone went to a Hollis Dixon show, they would have a good time. Dixon would make sure of it.

Johnson said he has no doubt Dixon could have made it in the music industry on a larger scale, but he respected Dixon for choosing to be a family man instead.

Dixon worked for Reynolds Aluminum for seven years and for the Army National Guard for 40 years.

“He touched so many lives with his music, but it was more than that,” said Shepherd, who was a mainstay at the W.C. Handy Music Festival for more than 20 years.

If a band member needed help, Dixon was known for giving him his portion of the band's paycheck.

“He took out the loan for my first set of drums,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd said Dixon, who was 20 at the time, pulled him under a table and shielded him with his arm when chairs started flying after a fight broke out at a Sheffield club where they were playing.

“He was a great entertainer,” said Donnie Srygley, Dixon's original guitar player in the Keynotes.

What he remembers the most about his friend is his sense of humor.

“He would keep Mike Shepherd and me in stitches all the time,” Srygley said. “We just had fun. That's all we did.”

His son, guitarist Don Srygley, said his dad and Dixon would “drag him” to shows when he was younger.

“Hollis always had the best bands,” the younger Srygley said. “He was the dude who started a lot of stuff. We might not have had the Swampers without that band.”

Baker said Dixon's accomplishments deserve acknowledgment by the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

“The list of people he's helped here is endless,” Baker said.

Lenny LeBlanc is another artist who credits Dixon with providing him with work when he arrived in the Shoals.

“When I moved here in 1973, I was a bass player and wanted to get work in the studios,” LeBlanc said. “Hollis was the first to hire me. I'm sure that story has been repeated by every successful singer or musician in the Shoals area.”

LeBlanc will perform his hit contemporary Christian song “Above All,” at Dixon's funeral Thursday.

The song was a number one hit for Michael W. Smith and won the 2002 Dove Award for “Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year.”

“His wife Raye requested that I sing that song because it was one of his favorites,” LeBlanc said. “I'm more than happy to do it.”

Funeral arrangements are on Page 4B.

Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Source: ttp://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101027/NEWS/101029822/1011/NEWS&Title=Shoals-music-pioneer-Hollis-Dixon-75-dies&template=printpicart

Influential rock 'n' roll and rhythm-and-blues musician Hollis Dixon, one of the pioneering forces in the birth of the "Muscle Shoals sound," died at his home Monday after a lengthy illness. He was 75.

Dixon was born in Decatur on Sept. 23, 1935. He graduated from Sheffield High School in 1953 and worked at Reynolds Aluminum for seven years. He was employed by the Alabama Army National Guard for 40 years, working as a military technical specialist and retiring as Command Sergeant Major of the 115th Signal Battalion Headquarters Company in Florence.

Dixon was best known to the general public - and revered by three generations of musicians -as leader of one of the region's most enduring and popular bands, Hollis Dixon and the Keynotes. From 1956-82, the Keynotes offered training opportunities and performance experience for aspiring young players who went on to become major movers and shakers in the Muscle Shoals recording industry.

"Hollis always had a great band - everybody wanted to play with Hollis," songwriter and musician Donnie Fritts recalled. "Whenever anybody left his band, you always had a lot of great musicians waiting in line to take their place."

Through the years Dixon's uncanny knack for spotting talent opened musical doors for Fritts, Jimmy Johnson, Roger Hawkins, Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, David Hood, Travis Wammack, Pete Carr, Lenny LeBlanc, Eddie Hinton, Gary Baker, Mickey Buckins, Junior Lowe, Steve Nathan, Owen Hale, Mike Shepherd, Randy McCormick and many others. In 1962, the Keynotes recorded a single called "Paper Boy."

"I enjoyed recording, but I made the decision that I didn't want to be an artist," Dixon recalled. "I loved playing dances and college fraternity parties, but I had a wife and a family. A lot of the younger guys considered me kind of a square for having a day job, but that never bothered me. I was content to play music for fun, and it's a great feeling knowing that so many of the players who started with me went on to do so many wonderful things in music."

Dixon is survived by his wife of 54 years, Delores Raye Bloss Dixon, Tuscumbia; daughters, Karen D. Blomeyer, Huntsville, and Lisa D. Johnston (Neal), Tuscumbia; son, Scott Edward Dixon (Shirley), Huntsville; grandson, Hollis Keith Blomeyer, Madison; granddaughter, Lauren Victoria Dixon, Huntsville; stepgrandsons, Sean Gaylor and Preston Gaylor, Huntsville; brothers, Lyndon Stanley (Mary Lou), Gary Stanley (Sandra) and Roger Stanley (Lynn); and his beloved mother-in-law, Virginia Lee Bloss.

Dixon was a member of Parkview Baptist Church in Tuscumbia. He was preceded in death by his parents, Margaret Lucille Elkins and Robert L. Stanley, and a grandson, Chad Darby Horn.

Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. today at Colbert Memorial Chapel, Tuscumbia. The service will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, with the Rev. Bob Pitman and the Rev. Jim Cummings officiating and singer Lenny LeBlanc performing "Above All." Burial will follow at Tri-Cities Memorial Gardens, Florence. The family asks that memorials be made to the Parkinson's Foundation and NACOLG Transportation Service.

Published in Florence Times Daily on October 27, 2010

Source: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesdaily/obituary.aspx?n=hollis-dixon&pid=146260328&fhid=7051













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