Jim Dickinson is a musician's musician, one of the well-kept secrets of rock 'n' roll. His chair has swiveled from producer to sideman for Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Ry Cooder, and the Rolling Stones, Big Star, the Replacements, and Mudhoney. Inside the ubiquitous Memphis maverick lives a honky-tonk lounge pianist and his most recent solo album Dinosaurs Run In Circles (Memphis International) has been in heavy rotation on my boom box as of late. He tickles the ivories with his trademark fonky élan and croaks ten 20th Century standards, sounding like Hoagy Carmichael way past last call. Apparently first takes, backed with nothin' but his rhythm section (we're privy to discussions about the arrangements), the singer's persona digs chicken, whiskey, coleslaw, even bones, and frets about his economic stability. Dickinson's lazy Mississippi River drawl laid over songs by Arlen/Mercer, Louis Jordan, and Brother Ray reminds us how much popular Western culture is Southern-American in origin, exuding tremendous warmth, humor, soul and, ultimately, comfort. This is one dinosaur who believes extinction can be beat with the right attitude.
But sometimes even mighty creatures need a little help. Dickinson has had some serious health problems as of late, forcing him to check into something that starts with an H and it ain't the Hilton. His friends, including John Hiatt, Jimmy Davis, Sid Selvidge with Jimmy Crosthwait, the beauteous Shannon McNally, Amy LaVere, Jimbo Mathus, Yallabushwackers, the Sons of Mudboy, and the North Mississippi Allstars (featuring his sons Luther and Cody Dickinson), are gathering this Saturday night, August 8th at 6 p.m. at the Peabody Hotel Skyway in Memphis for a benefit to assist his family with the doctor bills. (I guess they ain't holdin' their breath for Congress to pass universal healthcare, but that's a whole other barrel of rancid fish.) If you can make it to Memphis on Saturday, you can call 901-725-0855 for tickets and information. If you can't attend, donations can be made payable to Beale St. Caravan and sent to Elizabeth Montgomery at Ardent Studios, 2000 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38104 or directly through the PayPal e-mail address of FriendsOfJimDickinson@gmail.com.
As Ms. McNally sez "Jim is a very special figure in rock-n-roll. His love of music is pure and his standards are high. He's been a beacon for many of us." He's one of the last of the real deals, a pre-cyberchip hipster who's never neglected to keep the roll in rock. Now's the time to pay him back.