It's Home To The Blues For Hall Of Famer Dion
Dion Francis DiMucci was a 1989 inductee to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Known mononymously as Dion, he ought to be in the Halls of Fame of Doo Wop, R & B, Pop and soon, maybe, the Blues too.
Dion was born in 1939 and at 74 he’s still going strong after a career that made him a star to multiple generations and in multiple genres.
An Italian/American product of The Bronx, New York he grew up in a world of a cappella street corner and local club singers who gave birth to the Doo Wop sound of the 1950s that celebrated harmony and vocal power. When he was still a child he tagged along as his musician father toured. It was at that time Dion developed a lifelong love of Country music, especially Hank Williams, and the Blues.
After an audition with the creators of Mohawk Records Dion did the lead vocal for a song called “The Chosen Few” by a group he never even met called the Timberlanes. He was, to say the least, less than impressed.
In his autobiography Dion wrote "The vocal group was so white bread, I went back to my neighborhood and I recruited a bunch of guys - three guys - and we called ourselves Dion and the Belmonts."
Both with The Belmonts from 1957 to 1960 and alone from 1960 to 1964, Dion had more than a dozen Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s including his best remembered singles, "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer" from 1961.
After the Beatles and the accompanying British Invasion of the mid-1960s tastes changed and Dion faded from the public eye. Fortunately for us it was in the mid 1960s that Columbia’s legendary producer John Hammond (father of a pretty well known Blues artist, John Hammond Jr.) introduced Dion to the classic Blues and he recorded versions of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Spoonful.”
Successful they weren’t, influential they most certainly were.
Despite a number of recordings in a folkie style like the major hit “Abraham, Martin and John” between the late 1960s and the mid 1980s, Dion became a dedicated Bluesman. The happy result, for us Blues lovers, has been a series of pretty fine Blues albums including Bronx in Blues, Son of Skip James and Tank Full of Blues. All three have reached Billboard’s Top 10 Blues Albums and this Saturday on the Nine O’clock Blues we’ll be hearing a track from Tank Full of Blues.