Willie Dixon and B. B. King are two of the most important figures in the history of the blues, and their lives and music have deep roots in Mississippi. Still performing in his eighties, King is acknowledged as America’s greatest blues artist, and Dixon composed many of the most beloved blues lyrics. The interviews that follow were both recorded at Yale University in 1975 when I taught as a joint professor in the American studies and Afro-American studies programs. During that time I invited James Thomas to perform and speak to my classes each academic year, and in the summers I returned to Mississippi to continue my field recordings, photography, and filming.
Though we met and spoke far from the Mississippi blues worlds, those worlds were clearly alive and well for both Willie Dixon and B. B. King. They acknowledged how their early musical experiences shaped their careers as blues artists in deep, enduring ways.