James Luther Dickinson, R.I.P.


James Luther Dickinson, a musician, producer and patriarch of Southern music, died Sunday after heart bypass surgery.  He was 67.  In the 1980s I worked with this guy, John W. King, who was an A&R guy at Stax Records in Memphis back in the day.  One of his co-workers at Stax was a young Bill Browder, who would later become the country singer T.G. Sheppard.  And one of his good buddies was James Luther Dickinson.

Dickinson got his start in the music business working for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, and he played piano on one of Sun’s last great singles, “Cadillac Man” by the Jesters.  Dickinson made a name for himself as a producer as well as a session musician – he played on the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Teenage Head,” as well as on Aretha Franklin’s “Spirit In The Dark.”  He also produced the Replacements and Big Star, and co-wrote (with Ry Cooder and John Hiatt) “Across the Borderline,” which has been covered by everyone from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen.  He fathered Luther and Cody Dickinson, two of the North Mississippi All Stars.

One day Dickinson came into Houston to meet up with his buddy John King.  I was thrilled to get invited along, and it was great to hear these old Memphis buds sit around and yap about old times.  They talked about how everyone who ever passed through Memphis at one point or another claimed they went out with Cybill Sheppard.  After about two hours, we all said goodbye and I realized this huge music legend didn’t tell one story about music, or producing, or playing.  He didn’t need to, he was the real deal.

Associated Press obituary on Jim Dickinson

MP3: “Truck Drivin’ Man” by James Luther Dickinson

MP3: “Fishing With Charlie” by James Luther Dickinson

MP3: “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones

MP3: “Across the Borderline” by Flaco Jimenez and John Hiatt

MP3: “Jesus Christ” by Big Star

MP3: “Eyes” by the North Mississippi All Stars

MP3: “Hungry Town” by James Luther Dickinson

One Response to “James Luther Dickinson, R.I.P.”

  1. dkpresents Says:

    Sad news. His album Dixie Fried is a lost classic, and his song ‘The Ballad Of Billy & Oscar’ (from Free Beer Tomorrow) – a nine-minute ode to an imaginary meeting between Billy The Kid and Oscar Wilde – is one of the great epics in rock history. JLD was more talented than most music fans will ever realize. What a loss!

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