For most people, the name Dion DiMucci brings to mind doo-wop and oldies music thanks to hits like “I Wonder Why,” “A Teenager in Love,” “Ruby Baby” and “Runaround Sue” that he had with and without his group The Belmonts. But in reality, the Bronx native has always had a deep and abiding love for roots music, a self-described obsession for him that kicked in the first time he heard it on the radio in his mother’s kitchen back when he was about 11. This love for country music and the blues not only manifested itself in recent projects like Son of Skip James, Bronx in Blue and the brand-new New York Is My Home, but when Dion was recording for Columbia Records back in the 1960s that wound up being mostly unreleased. While some of those sessions wound up resurfacing on the 1997 2-CD compilation The Road I’m On: A Retrospective, a 5- CD set called Kicking Child mostly made up of this kind of material remains unreleased to this day. The following are major influences that shaped Dion’s musical approach be it in the worlds of pop or otherwise.
“[Hank Williams] seemed like he was so committed—spiritually, mentally, physical, emotionally. He’d grab on to the words with his mouth and rip them off at the end. He dug in and the rhythm would just plug along and this guy would just drill. He was like a rivet gun—it just resonated with me. And, the other thing is that he taught me how to live. He had an album out called Luke the Drifter and he did a song called ‘The Funeral’ about a young black kid who died. He did a song called ‘Pictures From Life’s Other Side.’ He did songs about relationships. I listened and was enthralled by the stories. I learned how to live through listening to those songs—they were very honest. Maybe he didn’t know how to live—he didn’t make it out, but he was honest in his music.”
Radio DJ Don Larkin
“There was this radio station that just happened to be on in my Bronx neighborhood and I remember my mother was making sauce and the radio was on in the back room and I heard ‘Honky Tonky Blues.’ I must have been 10 or 11-years-old and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ Don Larkin was an older guy who came back from the Army and liked country music. He had a country music show that broadcast out of Newark. I wasn’t even a teenager and I used to run home from school just to catch the last half hour of the Don Larkin Show. By that time, my father had borrowed our landlady’s tape recorder and I would record the last half hour of the show. He would play singers like Hank Williams, Carl Smith and Faron Young here and there. I would have all these songs I could learn because I knew three chords and I just loved it.”
“I wanted to communicate like Hank Williams and roll like Jimmy Reed. He just rolled, which rock & roll does: Hn’t have too much anymore. I have a lot of that in my shuffles. But Jimmy Reed rolled and he knew how to groove. And these guys didn’t know how to do anything wrong. They didn’t even try…they just did it. It was just right out there—this is me.”