Those early days in the 1940s and '50s playing alongside Big Joe Turner in warehouses, barns and dance halls spread across the country are clearly long past for local blues veteran Floyd Dixon. And yet it must have seemed like yet another evolution in the blues for the celebrated Jump Blues pianist when Dixon performed at the opening weekend at Fleetwood's in West Hollywood last month.
The new venue was established by Mick Fleetwood, founding drummer for the chart-topping Fleetwood Mac, to showcase blues and R&B; in a formal setting. But for Dixon, author of the classic blues chestnut "Hey Bartender" and about 400 other tunes, the new club means more than just another gig, which he will repeat six nights a week in April.
The club, located at 8290 Santa Monica Blvd. and calling itself "the Cotton Club of the '90s" with its slick, sophisticated surroundings, offers some added respect to the traditional American musical forms, said Dixon, 63.
"It's giving a little class to the blues instead of looking down on it, you know," Dixon said last week. "Instead of a dirty bucket, it's getting to be seen as cultured and refined, I would say."
Fleetwood's also joins just a handful of Los Angeles venues, including the Westside clubs At My Place and the Music Machine, to regularly feature blues musicians. The number remains small in comparison to cities like Chicago, New Orleans and Boston, Dixon added. And he spends much of the year traveling through these cities and others in the United States and Europe.
The upcoming monthlong Fleetwood's gig will come only after touring Holland and the East Coast, performing his own songs mixed up with such unexpected covers as Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" and Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."
Born in Texas, Dixon has lived in Los Angeles since he was 13. And he said he's happy to see a "dynamic" club established in the city--demonstrating that good blues can be found anywhere, even in a slick West Hollywood nightclub.
"People are getting to understand that it's the soul that's the real substance to it, and the right feeling," he said. "You get into it, and it's something that moves you."