Willie Dixon was born 100 years ago this month. The Chicago blues musician, arranger and record producer influenced many generations of artists, from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley to Bob Dylan, Cream, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
He wrote over 500 songs, including “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
Willie Dixon also wrote “Diddy Wah Diddy.” It’s been recorded by Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Captain Beefheart.
Westporters know — and love best — the version by The Remains.
Featuring Staples grads Barry Tashian (vocals/guitar) and Bill Briggs (keyboards), they opened for the Beatles on their 1966 tour. The Remains performed on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo.”
Rock journalist Mark Kemp said if they had stayed together, “we might today be calling them — and not the Stones — the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”
Springsteen’s guitarist, Little Steven Van Zandt, called the Remains “living history, and one of our most valued American treasures.”
And Rolling Stone magazine described them as “a religious totem of all that was manic and marvelous about mid-’60s pop.”
But they dissolved before most Americans ever discovered their greatness. They got back together a while back, and — though drummer Chip Damiani died last year — still occasionally perform to ecstatic audiences.
Now “Diddy Wah Diddy” is about to get a new life — with another Westport twist.
Staples Class of 1970 grad Bill Banks — whose real job is banking — spent the past year developing Billion Planets Music. Emerging artists and seasoned veterans to work together, in music and video production.
A group of those musicians — including Charlie Karp, who dropped out of Staples in 1970 to tour with Buddy Miles, and later played with Hendrix — has recorded a new version of the song. Banks calls the 2015 genre “blues/hop.”
He liked the collaboration so much, he contacted Willie Dixon’s family in Chicago. They loved it. During the centennial of his birth, it may be included in some of the Blues Heaven Foundation events they’ve planned.
Meanwhile, Banks is starting work on a movie about life in North Miami, as seen through the eyes of Hans Louis. He’s the “emerging artist” singer on the new recording.
“Hans grew up there,” Banks says. “The theme is that it’s an urban/modern ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’ place.” (The Remains’ Tashian sang: “She don’t come from no town, she don’t come from no city/She lives way down in Diddy Wah Diddy.”)
You’ll have to wait to hear the blues/hop version. But just click below for the Remains’ take. They’re still rockin’, after 50 years.
(If your browser does not take you directly to YouTube, click here.)
BONUS HIT: Click here to link to a Gap commercial — shown only in India — featuring “Diddy Wah Diddy.”