Dion - Son of Skip James
Skip James died right after my record of “Abraham, Martin and John” went Gold.
By 1963, I had sold millions and millions of recordings, twelve made it into the top ten. I was the first Rock and Roll artist signed to Columbia Records, a half million dollars up front guaranteed. That was a lot of money back then. I was King – Artist of the Year.Sitting on the piano stool with Aretha Franklin in Tom Wilson’s office, singing standards and trading licks… Columbia Records did not know what to do with both of us. The focus was hit records and nothing else. John Hammond, Sr., across the hallway, knew I had a love for the blues. He heard me singing “Ruby Baby,” “The Wanderer,” and “Drip Drop.” We became good friends. I’d hang out in his office listening to Robert Johnson, Furry Lewis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Fred McDowell. John would smile when he’d tell people that King of the Delta Blues sold 25,000 records just by word of mouth. I knew at that time something profound and important was in those recordings.I went up to the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 – Dylan was appearing. I was at all ofhis early sessions with Tom Wilson and John Hammond. Tom produced us both. Al Kooper and Charlie Smalls and some of the other session guys I knew played on many of his early records.Newport – that’s where I first met Skip James. We talked about the blues, guitars, Jesus and his health. He was one beautiful, shy, mysterious dude, who sang like he was from outer space. John Hurt sat quietly smilin’ while we talked. I looked up to these guys like heroes, mentors. The early Fathers of American roots music. I wanted to get close to them any way I could. They were all that motivated me at the center of my being!I define the blues as the naked cry of the human heart longing to be in union with God. I know for me it was all-consuming. To be able to express my joys, sorrows, fears and hope – a place where you can be totally honest on the journey home.What a gift. What a treasure. Get it all out so it doesn’t get twisted up inside (a bit of salvation). It feels so good to sing about something that hurts so bad.What a gift… This is part of my story. Dion Son of Skip James