Dorsey Dixon and his brother Howard Dixon were 2 amongst 7 total siblings, all poor mill workers by the time they reached their teen years in North & South Carolina. Dorsey Dixon did not start writing his own rural folk songs until age 32, but songs like “Weaver’s Life”, “Factory Girl”, “Babies in the Mill”, “The School House Fire” and “Spinning Room Blues” were infused with struggles of the poor workers in the southern textile mills, and were later rediscovered by labor & song historians.

The brothers moved from performing their music at local jamborees into a professional career in 1934 via the WBT Saturday Night Jamboree radio show out of Charlotte NC. On 12 Feb. 1936, they had their first recording session for RCA Victor. Over the next two years there were six more sessions in which almost 60 songs were recorded, including twelve songs in which Dorsey’s then wife Beatrice Dixon sat in. They attributed their singing success in the midst of the great depression to the lord’s providence, When their contracts ran out about the time WWII started, they returned to millwork. When Roy Acuff had a huge hit with “Wreck On the Highway” in 1942, no one noticed or cared that it was actually a rework of The Dixon Brothers’ own 1938 song “I Didn’t Hear Anybody Pray,” Embittered by their experiences in the music business, the two brothers rarely performed again professionally, except in their local church in the 1950’s.

“I’m trying to serve the Lord in my weak way and trying to be a blessing to people, is what I been trying to do. In fact, I’ve tried to live right all my life, but, you know, we’re not going into the story about my life because I don’t want that mentioned. I don’t want nothing about my life wrote out, because I had it too rough in life. —Dorsey Dixon, on a ca. 1961 homemade recording

Born poor in 1897, in Darlington, South Carolina, Dorsey Dixon was an oxygen-starved baby weighing only three pounds. “I heard [my parents] tell friends and neighbors many times that I was a blue baby. Which I did not understand,” Dixon explained in one of his autobiographical writings. “But I have learned that such babies requared the greatest of care by doctors and nerses. and was right up next to imposible to keep one of them from slipping out from the living. But a great unknown Power kept me. and I made it.”

After Howard died on the job, working in a mill in 1960. folklorists encouraged Dorsey to briefly emerge from retirement to make some new recordings for Piedmont and the Library of Congress. He performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, where he was introduced to the crowd by folksinger Pete Seeger.

Dorsey died in 1968 and was buried in East Rockingham N.C

Edited by rubydolls on 25 Nov 2008, 01:11

Sources

Southern Culture Center for Study of the South, unc.edu bio, Eugene Chadbourne article for AllMusic

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