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Dust, Ash, And Memphis Mud

I remember way back, sitting at the kitchen table, Dad sitting across from me, his face buried in the morning paper, peering up from above the page he says to me, “Eddie, you know your getting old, when in the morning, first thing, your checking to see who’s left.” Yesterday, probably the first time for me, I saw my hold on youth was gone. A few years, into this new century I had moved back East, living in South Philly, I got the word of a noon time concert put on by WXPN at Rittenhouse Square. The North Mississippi All Stars were playing, I seized this opportunity to connect with old friends, laced up my skates,and rolled up into Center City. Through the 90s I lived in the area, got to know the people at WXPN, you see I spent those days in my darkroom, the station format, was a perfect match for me, with no commercials, this set me free from changing CDs. This station operated, by holding fund raising events, the music would shut down for a week, my only choice was to volunteer working the phones, unable to get any of my own work done, with all that pitching going on, a chance for me to reconnect, with one of my many past lives. These fund raising events were all about the music, although very little music was played, lots of friendships were cultivated during these events, all of us, the DJs, the volunteers, stitched together by a common thread, a passionate love for the art. I ran into a lot of old friends that day in Rittenhouse Square, it was a few weeks later, when I discovered how close I had come to meeting up with an old friend, someone I believe, who years before, saw a spark in me, who worked hard on me, an attempt to teach me things, I was unable to grasp. Music coursed through this mans veins, a Southern Boy from Memphis, playing music for him, no more difficult, than a leisurely stroll down Beale Street. Jim knew everyone in the business, oh the stories he would tell, stories of the Rolling Stones, stories of Leon Russells floating Motel in Tulsa. A plume of talent had come from Memphis in those years, Jim, a True Southern Gentleman, it was apparent to me, was the linchpin. Thinking back to a time, picking him up, from his Bungalow at the Miramar in Santa Monica, bringing him up to the house in Nichols Canyon, to spend a day away, he had been in town producing Ry Cooders’, “Into The Purple Valley, guess he needed a break, to spend a day “drinking wine spo-de-o-de drinking wine”, along with some other things!!! So anyhow, I just put on some Memphis Slim, to help this story along, to hold onto the spirit of the moment, I close my eyes, and I see Jim sitting down at the piano. He played and sang for us, the entire Randy Newman album, song by song, his uncanny ability to hear something once, and add it to his repertoire, was for me, mind boggling, you see, this record was months away from release, he had sat in on the sessions, had locked it in, like I said before, music coursed through this mans veins! Such a long day, one that ran long into the night, we sang and played for hours, Jim switched from piano, to guitar, to bass, then back to piano again, he even beat a little on the drums! At some point, early that evening, during a break, he went into his briefcase, and pulled out a tape, it was an album, never to be released, by Dan Penn. Right now, as I’m writing about this, I get chills, phenomenal, mind blowing work, recorded for Happy Tiger Records, the label had gone bankrupt, the tracks it seemed, were wrapped up in the litigation. Dan Penn co wrote Dark End Of The Street with Spooner Oldhem, an old R+B Classic, it was evident, hearing this work, Dan wasn’t done! There were other times I was blessed by Jims company, and there were times we weren’t able to connect, in 1991 I was on a train, The Chicken Bone Special, a train that ran through Memphis, out of New Orleans, rolling through to Chicago, the schedule had us at the station in Memphis, about 3am, I sent a message through Ardent Studios, letting Jim know, I was passing through, I knew, he knew, I had something in me, at this time in my life, I had settled into my photography, and was anxious to show him, what was up with me. I guess us meeting up, wasn’t meant to be, I can remember looking up and down the station platform, a bit disappointed, however, understanding 3am, even for music men is difficult, a time where either their hard at work, or hard at sleep. I don’t know why, yesterday, I woke up thinking about Jim. Most times, not one to be, yesterday, it appears, I was just a little late! I punched Jim Dickinson into my Blackberry, and saw that he had passed, I spent the entirety of the day, reading about him, thinking about him, relieved a bit, knowing, a chance may come later, where we’d meet on the other side, like he said, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone”
James Luther Dickinson
November 15 1941
August 15 2009
May God Shine Through You
Rest In Peace
A link to Jim’s Legacy

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