Born 7 August 1931, Jacksonville, Florida
Producer/songwriter Luther Dixon was born in Florida and grew up on the East Coast. By 1954 he had joined the vocal group The Four Buddies (led by Larry Harrison), who had recorded prolifically for the Savoy label during 1950-1953. Dixon became their baritone singer and (occasional) guitar player. The group also recorded as The Barons (one of at least five US groups with that name) for Decca and as The Buddies for Glory. The group disintegrated in 1955 and Luther Dixon and Larry Harrison started writing songs together. Their biggest hit 9and only) was "Why Baby Why", one of the better up-tempo records by Pat Boone, which peaked at # 5 in the spring of 1957. Soon Dixon and Harrison would each go their own songwriting way, but Luther hardly ever wrote a song all by himself, almost always with a partner. Some of these songwriting partners were among the best in the business, like Otis Blackwell, with whom Dixon wrote "All the Way Home" for Bobby Darin (recorded in January 1958, but shelved until the release of the "For Teenagers Only" LP in 1960). Luther's next big hit as a songwriter was "Sixteen Candles" by the Crests (# 2, late 1958), co-written with Allyson Khent.
In 1960 Dixon was approached by Florence Greenberg, who had started her own NYC record label, Scepter Records, in 1959. She was also managing a girl group called the Shirelles, whose first record for Scepter, "Dedicated To The One I Love" had peaked at # 83, but several follow-ups by the group bombed completely. Greenberg felt that the label needed better material and more promotion and asked Dixon if he would be interested in working with the Shirelles. His answer was "Of course". He had previously heard the group and thought they had promise. After a few meetings, Greenberg was so impressed with Dixon that she offered him a good financial package with a lot of responsibility and independence : A&R (Artists & Repertoire), production and a piece of the publishing.
Dixon's first production for the Shirelles was "Tonight's the Night", which he co-wrote with Shirley Owens, the group's lead singer. It went to # 39 in the autumn of 1960, in spite of competition from a cover by the Chiffons, whose version peaked at # 76. This was followed by the monster hit "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (# 1, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) and the Shirelles were truly on their way. The B-side of that record, Dixon's composition "Boys", would later become a handsome source of royalties after it was recorded by the Beatles on their first LP.
The Shirelles had many more hits during 1961-63, all produced by Dixon, including a second number one, "Soldier Boy", which Dixon co-wrote with Florence Greenberg. She had started a second label, Wand Records, in 1961. Wand's most successful artist was Chuck Jackson (ex-Dell-Vikings), whose first hit, "I Don't Want To Cry" (# 36 in March 1961), was joinly written by Luther Dixon and Jackson himself. By 1963, Dixon had co-written many of the Scepter/Wand hits and produced most of them. In the industry, he was a hot commodity, and Capitol Records offered him a chance to set up his own label, Ludix Records. After Dixon's departure, the Shirelles would still score occasional hits, but they never made the Top 20 again.
Unfortunately for Dixon, the Ludix venture was unsuccessful. By 1966 he was working with a later version of the Platters, and he co-wrote and produced their two biggest post-Mercury hits: "I Love You 1000 Times" (# 31, 1966) and "With This Ring" (# 14, 1967), both on Musicor. Other well-known compositions by Dixon include "Big Boss Man" (with Al Smith), "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" and "Soul Serenade" (with King Curtis, who had a # 51 hit with the song in 1964). Not well-known, but very good is "I Dig That Rock and Roll" for Earl Wade (Swan 4008). At least, the BMI database lists Luther Dixon as the writer (with Earl Wade) of this song, whereas the Roller Coaster CD "Walkin' With Willie" (RCD 3009, annotated by our own Tony Wilkinson) lists "Gill, Wade" as the composers.
Further info on the Four Buddies:
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