If you’re a fan of Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, or even Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Rolling Stones, then you’ve heard the songs of Willie Dixon. This season, Big Head Todd and the Monsters will join forces with three second-generation blues stars, Mud Morganfield, Billy Branch and Ronnie Baker Brooks, to pay tribute to one of the pillars of modern blues, and one of the most influential songwriters of early rock and roll.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legend, Dixon has been called the “poet laureate of the blues,” having written over 500 songs, including such immortal hits as “You Shook Me”, “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover”, “Wang Dang Doodle”, “Spoonful”, “Little Red Rooster,” “I Just Wanna Make Love to You,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Bring It On Home.” In addition to songwriting, Dixon was also an accomplished bass player, singer, and in 1937 won the Illinois State Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship, later sparring with Joe Louis. Eventually, Dixon left boxing to sign with Chess Records and, along with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, because a key architect of the modern Chicago Blues sound.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters are best known for their platinum-selling record Sister Sweetly, and from that record the hit song “Bittersweet,” but have also been fans of blues music since their first days together playing music in high school. In 1997 they recorded a song with John Lee Hooker for their album Beautiful World, but it was in 2011 that the band really delved into the blues with their first Big Head Blues Club project, 100 years of Robert Johnson, which featured guest appearances by BB King, Hubert Sumlin, Charlie Musselwhite, Honeyboy Edwards, and more. That album led to a limited number of tour dates under the Big Head Blues Club moniker that same year. “The Songs of Willie Dixon,” tribute is the next chapter in what seems to be becoming a new tradition for the band.
Joining the band for this tour will be three great blues singers with royal blood. Mud Morganfield is the eldest son of Muddy Waters and has been taking the world’s blues festivals by storm of late and recently released a Blues Music Award-winning album with Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson. Billy Branch is a three-time Grammy Award nominee and played harmonica in Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-Stars band. Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of Chicago blues master Lonnie Brooks, is an accomplished blues guitarist whose headlined at the 2013 Chicago Blues Festival and performed internationally at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway.
Together, these three artists form the 2016 incarnation of the Big Head Blues Club, armed with their own blues material as well as an incredible playlist of songs from Willie Dixon, possibly the most prolific and accomplished songwriters in modern blues and rock n’ roll.
“[Big Head Todd and the Monsters]…helms (and helps orchestrate) a starkly atmospheric collection of blues shuffles and swamp-funk grooves laced with resonating guitars, percussion and keyboards. Some of the more haunting tracks, in fact, sound as if they were composed with an episode of 'True Blood' in mind.” —The Washington Post
“[Morganfield’s debut album 'Son of the Seventh Son’] It’s the sound of modern Chicago blues: dynamic, gritty and electric, yet with a traditional edge that would make his father proud.” —Clash Magazine
“Branch has the chops to indulge in showy barrages of clustered notes, but prefers to let tradition and taste dictate his sets.” —The Chicago Reader
“Ferocious and unrelenting, [Brooks' album] The Torch may be the year’s best blues album…” —The Boston Herald