Originally created 07/04/05

Drums keep blues away



George Dixon's friend told him that day that he needed to go ahead and quit his job. Mr. Dixon might cut off a finger and then he wouldn't be able to go on the road with R&B duo Sam and Dave the next week, the friend warned.

Mr. Dixon remembered how he gave his friend a playful punch and ran back to his saw at Knox Home. If he finished his work, he could leave early, Mr. Dixon recently recalled.

He said he didn't even notice when the saw cut off his right hand.

Mr. Dixon had played the drums since he was 5 years old, learning how to play before he learned to write, and he played before audiences when he was so little he couldn't be seen behind the bass drum. Without a right hand, Mr. Dixon said, he thought his life was over.

"It took something out of me for a long time," he said. The worst was that first Christmas after the accident when Mr. Dixon sat down to put together his baby girl's present - a tricycle. He couldn't do it.

"That was the most hurtful thing in my life," Mr. Dixon said.

Before the accident, Mr. Dixon had been teaching some children to play drums. His cousin and mother talked him into going to see the boys one day, Mr. Dixon said.

One boy cussed him and told Mr. Dixon he couldn't play anymore, Mr. Dixon said. His stump was still bandaged at the time and to show the kid what for, he jammed a drum stick into the bandages and began to play.

"He (God) let me live. I had to find a way to play," Mr. Dixon said.

When the bandages came off, he simply tied a bandage around his stump when it was time to play.

And play he did - with all of the bands around Augusta and famous acts such as James Brown, Jackie Wilson, the OJs, the Kelly Brothers, Otis Redding, Little Milton, Clarence Carter. "I could go on and on," Mr. Dixon said.

Bobby Bush, a lead singer for the local band Play Back, has known Mr. Dixon since their days at Lucy C. Laney High School. Mr. Dixon was one of the best drummers around, before and after he lost his hand, Mr. Bush said.

"I think he really got better" after the accident, Mr. Bush said. Playing drums was his life, Mr. Bush said. "Papa was Papa."

But playing drums one night, Mr. Dixon said he got a feeling that he didn't want to play anymore. He took his drums home when the job ended, and Mr. Dixon's playing might have ended there.

But 18 years ago, he accepted a minister's request to play the drums for a church choir at an anniversary celebration. The spirit grabbed hold and has held tight ever since, Mr. Dixon said.

"I made a vow to the Lord," Mr. Dixon said. As long as he can play the drums, he will play for God.

With the aches and pains age brings on, and arthritis marring his left hand, Mr. Dixon said he knows God enables him to continue to play, work two jobs, do mechanical work and do everything he wants.

Having one hand doesn't keep him from home improvements, yard work, driving a stick shift or even tying his shoes. It took time to learn how to do everything again, Mr. Dixon said, but he had to or he would have lived out his life helpless to do anything.

He is 100 percent disabled, Mr. Dixon said, but he hasn't drawn a dime in benefits and never intends to.

Retirement also isn't an option he's considering now, although he is nearly 62 and works two jobs - one with the Augusta-Richmond County Marshal's Office and the other driving trucks for Conquest Auto Parts, Mr. Dixon said.

"God isn't going to do for you what you can do for yourself."

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.