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About James Luther Dickinson

The name James Luther Dickinson may not be well-known but the sound of his piano and organ certainly are. Together with his group the Dixie Flyers, house band at the Atlantic-owned Criteria Recording Studios in Miami, FL, Dickinson accompanied such stellar artists as Aretha Franklin, Carmen McRae, Delaney & Bonnie, Dee Dee Warwick, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ronnie Hawkins, Sam & Dave, Sam the Sham, Brook Benton, Lulu, and (Little) Esther Phillips. His piano playing was also heard on recordings by the Flaming Groovies, Albert King, Ronnie Milsap, Eric Quincy Tate, Petula Clark, Maria Muldaur, and Duane Allman.

Dickinson has been equally effective as a producer. Since making his production debut with Dan Penn's Emmet the Singing Ranger Live in the Woods, he's gone on to oversee recordings by Ry Cooder, Alex Chilton, Jason & the Scorchers, Green on Red, the Replacements, Primal Scream, Mudhoney, and Rocket from the Crypt.

Dickinson has maintained a much lower profile as a recording artist. His debut solo album, Dixie Fried, which featured Dr. John on piano and an uncredited Eric Clapton on guitar, was released in 1972. Although he and Dixie Fried guitarist/vocalist Charlie Freeman formed a new group, Mud Boys & the Neutrons in the early '80s, they were unsatisfied with their intended debut album and refused to have it released. They didn't release their first album, Known Felons in Drag, until 1986. While they quickly followed it with their second release, They Walk Among Us, the next year, it took another seven years before their third album, Negro Street at Dawn, was released in 1993.

A native of Memphis, TN, Dickinson launched his career as a session player in the city's recording studios. Working with producer Sam Phillips, he played on Tony Joe White's Continued and Betty LaVette's He Made a Woman Out of Me. Asked by Atlantic to form a resident band for its newly acquired Criteria Recording Studios. Dickinson recruited keyboardist Mike Utley, bassist Tommy McClure, drummer Sammy Creason, and ex-Mar-Keys guitarist, Charlie Freeman. Although they performed on a lengthy list of recordings, they fell victim to the move toward self-contained bands. Leaving the studio in late 1970, they toured as backup band for Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson until disbanding in the mid-'70. Their farewell concert, on October 1, 1978, at Memphis' Orpheum Theater, was recorded and released as Beale Street Saturday Night. Recording his debut solo album shortly before the Dixie Flyers left Critera, Dickinson continued his relationship with Atlantic. Serving as an assistant to Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler, he eventually rose to the position of vice-president. ~ Craig Harris

Little Rock, AR
15 Nov 1941

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