The new year has started off sadly, with the loss of a member of the Alligator musical family. Popsy Dixon, the drummer and co-vocalist of The Holmes Brothers, died on January 9th from cancer. He was 72. Popsy had only recently been diagnosed, and he was able to perform until a month before his death. He was a terrific, in-the-pocket drummer, but it was his soulful, multi-octave singing that was his greatest gift. His voice ranged from a deep bass to a glorious, gospel-inspired falsetto.
I was speaking with Sherman Holmes and found out that Popsy was ‘given away’ by his parents and raised by others. When Wendell and Sherman Holmes declared he was their other brother (just not their genetic brother), Popsy finally found his true family. Maybe both the aching loneliness and the unfettered joy in his singing was the result. In Amazing Grace, he sang “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” That was the story of his life. As a final gesture of how close they have been, Sherman and Wendell chose to inter Popsy in the Holmes family plot. Popsy was a sweet, gentle man with a ready smile and a huge soul.
A reminder that you can hear Popsy’s moving vocals and the music of dozens of other Alligator artists on Alligator Radio. Tune in to http://s.tunein.com/alligator to hear selections from over 250 of our albums.
We’ve just released nine terrific new, digital download-only Best Of collections. We compiled some of the very finest tracks (both fan favorites and hidden gems) from nine great Alligator artists: Hound Dog Taylor, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Coco Montoya, Tinsley Ellis, Roomful of Blues, Eric Lindell and Lonnie Mack. Every track has been lovingly remastered under my personal supervision to sound even better than the original releases. Each full album contains at least 68 minutes of music, or you can choose individual tracks to fill out your collection. You can get more details and complete track listings for the entire Alligator Best Of series at our store at www.alligator.com. They’re available now through virtually every digital retailer, including iTunes, Amazon, E Music, HD Tracks, Slacker, and many more. They’re all killer, no filler.
Returning to The Alligator Story –1988 was a year when a whole slew of new artists came to the label. Besides The Siegel-Schwall Band’s Reunion Concert and The Paladins’ Years Since Yesterday, we brought some outstanding artists that had been on smaller labels or were just beginning to acquire national reputations. Maurice John Vaughn had been playing on the Chicago blues scene for some years, including a stint as Son Seals’ second guitar player. He had started his own band, and was so promising that we recorded him for our The New Bluebloods anthology, the 1987 album that had also introduced artists like Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and The Kinsey Report.
Maurice self-released a simply-packaged LP (black and white cover with a giant barcode on the front) called The Generic Blues Album. Like the package, his songs were witty and contemporary and full of personality. Maurice sang in a natural, conversational voice, played tasteful, understated guitar, and delivered his songs with unabashed good humor. The songwriting was outstanding, with seven cleverly crafted songs like Computer Stole My Job, Keep On Sleeping and Wolf Bite, as well as Phil Guy’s hilarious Garbage Man Blues. The Generic Blues Album was so unique and so much fun that I leased the rights from Maurice and released it on Alligator. Maurice went on to record another album for Alligator, 1993’s underappreciated In The Shadow Of The City, as well as a number of recordings for other labels. Maurice’s albums are well worth discovering.
That same year, I met a fun-loving Florida-based producer named Bob Greenlee. He was operating his label, King Snake Records, out of a modest studio above his three-car garage. It was more like a hobby than a business. Bob, a bass-playing songwriter, had gathered a group of regional blues and Southern rock musicians who hung out and recorded there. Bob was raving about a 30-year-old Louisiana guitar and harmonica player who was beginning to make some noise in the Southeast. His name was Kenny Neal.
More next time,