Sunday, January 11, 2015

Music world mourning death of The Holmes Brothers drummer Willie "Popsy" Dixon





Willie "Popsy" Dixon, drummer and vocalist of the critically acclaimed soul/blues band The Holmes Brothers, died in Richmond, Virginia, on Jan. 9. He had recently been diagnosed with stage four bladder cancer. He was 72 years old.

Dixon, born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on July 26, 1942, was celebrated for his soaring, soulful multi-octave vocals and his driving, in-the-pocket drumming, according to a press release from Chicago-based label Alligator Records.

He first met brothers Sherman and Wendell Holmes at a New York gig in 1967. Dixon sat in with the brothers and sang two songs. "After that second song," recalled Wendell, "Popsy was a brother."



They played in a variety of Top 40 bar bands until 1979, when the three officially joined forces and formed The Holmes Brothers, which The New York Times described as "deeply soulful, uplifting and timeless." They toured the world, releasing 12 albums starting with 1990's In The Spirit on Rounder.

Their most recent release is 2014's "Brotherhood" on Alligator.


Dixon first played the drums when he was 7 years old. In an interview in "Blues On Stage," Dixon said, "My mom and dad took me to the store and told me to get anything I liked. There was this tiny red drum set, with a tiny little kick drum and snare...little cymbals. Now, that's what I wanted! By the next morning, the thing was in the trash can. I beat it all to death. But, I tell you what...I knew how to play after that. I just knew. I had the rhythm down pat and had timing too. Just that fast. I been playing ever since."

In September 2014, The Holmes Brothers were honored with a National Endowment For The Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the United States bestows upon its folk and traditional artists.  

Dixon is survived by daughter Desiree Berry and longtime partner Isobel Prideaux.

Funeral service information is pending. Interment will be at the Holmes' family plot in Saluda, Virginia.