Walter “Tex” Dixon: from Hillbilly Bop to mainstream Country (1950 to Seventies)

Mason Dixon, here is an artist who went under a number of different sobriquets, billed variously during his career as “Tex” Dixon, Walter Dixon, Walter “Tex” Dixon, and of course Mason Dixon. Although he is not the Mason Dixon who recorded for the Memphis METEOR label, that was Merle “Red” Taylor.

The Mason Dixon here is one Walter Dickey, regular on the Dixie Hayride from Florence, Alabama, who made his recording debut, as
Walter Dixson, for the Birmingham, Alabama BAMA label in 1951 Both sides (« Honky Tonk Swing » is a rockin’ bopper. The B-side, « i’m Feelin’ Sorry » is an uptempo ballad. Years later, “Hello Memphis” was obviously a popular song as Dixon re-recorded the number for the Memphis ZONE label a few years later .

Although a thorough research, no biography data ever surfaced about him. So all we must consider is his music.And his recording history is far from complete, his records in some cases (1960’s) seemingly are quite uncommon, and it’s been quite a task to discover several of them, sorry.

His first record was issued on Bama 2200 under the adventurous name of Walter Dixson {sic}, it’s a romper (fabulous piano) « Honky Tonk Swing » on the very same label that « Sydney » Hardrock Gunter made also his debut with « Gonna Dance All Night », Bama # 201. One can assume, sudging aurally from the sounds, that they shared the same band on their first record. A second issue by Dixon is rumoured to exist, but never came to light. Then came his rarest records, on Dixie : . nobody seems to own them. Even a great collector of Hillbilly in U.S., Dave Sax didn’t answer to me about these Dixie records. Hell, maybe he’s got them !

Then Atkins relocated later employed Dixon for gigs.
Next Dixon was in 1957 on Starday (regular serie) # 564 (« Your Lovin’ Lies » / »I’m Feelin ‘ Sorry For Myself ») as « Tex Dixon ». Both songs are very good uptempo ballads. Steel guitar is prominent, and both are well sung with some extrovert vocal. His only known picture was taken during his stay at Starday.

We now jump ro 1959, on Reed Records (out of Alabama), and Dixon went on this Alabama label and cut 5 records, picking again his name of « Mason Dixon ». The highlight was the first version of one of his successes, the renowned « Hello Memphis » (Reed # 564) : it’s a an uptempo adorned by a fine steel and a lowdown backing. Other good tracks of this era do include « Somebody Else Is Taking My Place » (# 545), a nice fast bopper (with trumpet backing), the flipside, « I Wanr My Baby Back » is a rocker, nice guitar. Then « Big Blue Waters » (# 1060) has a folky taste, while its flipside « Open the Door (Liza Jane) » is a folk rocker. # 1064 do couple the already discussed « Hello Memphis » and « Queen Of My Heartaches » (doubled vocal).

Col Cold Heart

by Mason Dixon

(unheard -not found)(

I Don't LIKE This Kind Of Living

by Mason Dixon

(unheard - not found)

Cold, Cold Heart

by Mason Dixon

(unheard -not found)

I Just Don't like This Kind Of Living

by Mason Dixon

(Unheard -not found)

In 1960 Walter Dixon relocated in Memphis for 4 records, respectively on Zone and Stomper Time labels. The first has # 1150, a good rendition of two Hank Willllam’s songs, « Cold, Cold Heart » and « I Just Don’t Like This Kind Of Living », # 1150. «  I Had To Let You Go » and « Mind Full Of Memories » # 1158: two passable country-rockers (double vocals) – in 1962 – « She Can’t Stand The Light Of Day »/ a very good revamp of « Hello Memphis » (Zone # 520) suming at 2’43, instead of the Reed 1015 version.

There begins a serie of 4 non-secular tunes cut for Loyal Records under again the name Mason Dixon  : « Precious Memories »/ »There’s A Light Guiding Me » issued on Loyal # 112, (and the Datson Brothers, as backing vocal chorus?)

Erwin : « Slowly Dying » # 212), « Funny How Love Can Be » (750) and « Goodbye She’s Gone » (# 1100), one of his best rockers on Zone 1093

From then on, Dixon always cut mainstream country until the early ’70s . Things like « Radar Blues »/ »Running The Grapevine » (Brite Star 2458) « Big City »/ »Little Bitty Woman »(Crown 128), « i’m Crying Happy »/ »Just You» All those sides « Just Outside The Door » (GMG 187) and Macho 7803 « The Po ‘Man’s Blues ») are only of interest to hard-core country music fans, I guess. His Macho single seems the latest, and he disppeared afterwards, record-wise.

For several years I have been looking for material (biographical and/or records) of this important, although unknown nowadays, artist. The resulting story is quite meager, and I am conscious of his relative modesty. But it’s been all those recent years to gather material and setting up this story, indeed far from complete. Meanwhile, this is all I can say about Walter/Tex Dixon, and i hope someone will care and share his knowledge about him, in order to complete this story.

Aknowledgements: Big Allan Turner (Bama, Alfa sides); various compilations for 60’s material; a a special big ‘thank you’ to Kent Heinemann for later sides (60’s and 70s).