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Memphis’ Ardent Studios Mourns Loss of Jim Dickinson

Pictured at Ardent Studios’ 40th anniversary in 2006 are studio founder John Fry (left) and Memphis music legend Jim Dickinson.

Photo: David Goggin

Ardent Studios founder John Fry and the extended family of musicians who were touched by the power of Jim Dickinson mourn the loss of a man who had much to do with shaping the “Memphis Sound.” Dickinson, whose career spanned more than four decades, died Saturday at 67 in Memphis, Tenn. The Memphis native and longtime Mississippi resident had been in failing health for the past few months and was recuperating from heart surgery.

John Fry recollects the influence of Jim Dickinson on Memphis and Ardent Studios: “Our friendship and professional relationship spanned 45 years. Jim was the first independent record producer I ever worked with while I was still recording in the home studio I had built as a teenager. When Ardent opened as a commercial studio in 1966, Jim joined the staff as a producer/engineer and was instrumental in building the business during those first few years. The projects he worked on at Ardent over the decades are too numerous to mention, but two that stand out for me are Big Star’s third album, recorded in 1975, and the Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me. Jim was a treasured friend to the Ardent family, and he will be sorely missed.”

The father of Luther and Cody Dickinson of the Grammy Award-nominated group North Mississippi Allstars, Jim Dickinson recorded and produced Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, Big Star, the Rolling Stones, The Replacements and Sam & Dave.

Many younger musicians today are heavily influenced by Dickinson’s seminal work in the ’60s and ’70s, when he explored the blend of rock, pop, blues, country, and rhythm and blues that became known as the “Memphis Sound.” He collaborated with Ry Cooder on a number of movie scores, including Paris, Texas, and played with Dylan on his Grammy Award-winning return to prominence, Time Out of Mind.

“He was an incredibly influential individual,” recalls Big Star drummer and Ardent Studios manager Jody Stephens. “I think he defined independent spirit in music, and I think that touched a lot of people.”

Luther Dickinson says that the family has no plans for a public memorial and that the tribute concert held in early August at Memphis’ Peabody Hotel will stand as the farewell to their father.

Click here to read Jim Dickinson’s obituary in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.