Luther Dixon

Luther Dixon worked as a songwriter and producer and was responsible in some manner for many of the great pop songs of the 50's and 60's.

Dixon was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1931. His family moved to Brooklyn where he was exposed to music in church. He liked singing, and in 1954 joined a rhythm & blues quartet known as the Four Buddies. As time went on he was drawn more to songwriting than to singing. Luther and that group's lead singer, Larry Harrison, co-wrote a few things and found themselves making the rounds of the music publishers and record labels in New York City, trying to sell pop songs.

The first hit for the songwriting duo came in 1957 with Why Baby Why by Pat Boone. They began to pick up a reputation and in a short time their songs were being recorded by the likes of Bobby Darin, Perry Como, and even Elvis Presley. Dixon was the co-writer of Sixteen Candles, along with Allyson Khent. After it was recorded by the Crests, the song went to #2 early in 1959, establishing Dixon as right there with the best of them at the time. Another hit written by Dixon (with Al Smith) was Big Boss Man, recorded by influential blues singer Jimmy Reed and later by many others.

Florence Greenberg established the Scepter label with the intent of making it an outlet for pop classics by black artists. She recognized Dixon's talent and brought him in as producer and arranger, as well as songwriter. It was good timing for both as he went on to a distinguished career with Scepter where he became part owner, and he more-or-less had free reign to sign artists to recording contracts, write the songs, produce the sessions, and in general use his many talents at a time when they were well-suited to the pop music of the times. Greenberg's daughter attended high school in Passaic, New Jersey along with a group of teenage girls who started out calling themselves the Poquellos in junior high. Greenberg teamed them with Dixon, initially on her Tiara Records label. They began working with Dixon, changed their name to the Shirelles (taken from the first name of lead singer Shirley Owens, later Shirley Owens Alston), and were on the leading edge of the girl group era of pop music. After they started working with Dixon they had a string of hits on Scepter, the first of which Tonights The Night, co-written by Luther Dixon with Owens, reached the lower rungs of the top forty in late 1960.

Dixon worked with the Shirelles and formed them into a hit-making powerhouse in the pop music business of the early 60's. In late 1960 they recorded a song that was initially titled Tomorrow. After some adjustments Dixon produced the song re-titled as Will You Love Me Tomorrow, and it went to #1 where it remained for two weeks. The song established the very talented Shirelles as hit-makers and their subsequent work with Dixon made a large imprint on pop music history of the time. From 1961 through 1963 it was as if the combination of Luther Dixon and the Shirelles could not miss. He produced another mega-hit in Baby It's You which he had written under the pseudonym Barney Williams along with Burt Bacharach and Mack David. Dixon co-wrote songs that were turned into hits for the group, such as Mama Said and Soldier Boy, their second and last number one hit.

It was quite a tribute to Dixon's prowess as a record producer and songwriter when no less than the Beatles included two of his songs on their debut album, Baby It's You and Boys. Dixon left Scepter after receiving a lucrative offer from Capitol Records in 1963 which included an invitation to establish his own label, Ludix Records. Serving in the familiar roles of producer, arranger and songwriter, he worked with a number of soul singers for the next several years, but not much of his work met with a great deal of success. One exception was Soul Serenade, which Dixon co-wrote with saxophone player extraordinaire King Curtis. Dixon began to do freelance work.

He met Inez Foxx, a singer from North Carolina who had a top ten hit of her own with Mockingbird in 1963. Together they wrote I Love You 1000 Times, produced by Dixon, which was one of the final top forty hits for the Platters in 1966. The following year Luther produced the album Come By Here for Inez and her brother, Charlie Foxx. Luther married Inez and they remained together for some years, but later divorced.

After the 60's ended Luther Dixon's style of music was left behind, but there were revivals such as when his Sixteen Candles appeared on the soundtrack of the 1973 motion picture American Graffiti. Boys was used on The Beatles: Rock Band computer game.

In addition to those already mentioned, songs written by Luther Dixon were recorded by a number of artists including B.B. King, the Jackson 5, and Dusty Springfield. In later years Luther Dixon retired to Florida. He died at age 78 in Jacksonville in 2009, just days after having been nominated for the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is remembered for his work with the Shirelles, and for his outstanding talent as a record producer and songwriter.

Most Recent Update: May 1, 2013

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