Jimmy “Louisiana” Dotson’s nickname connected him to Texas’ neighbor to the east, but the blues player estimated he’d lived in at least 20 places during his career, eventually settling in Houston in the 1990s where he started the band Antique Funk.
Dotson, who played with soul legend Aretha Franklin and blues greats like Slim Harpo and Albert King, died over the weekend after several years of ill health that included a heart attack, a stroke and complications from diabetes. He was 82.
Local blues player Sonny Boy Terry called him “a very inventive guy,” describing his music as “a hybrid, it’s part Ray Brown and part Ray Charles.”
Dotson was born near Baton Rouge. After a failed attempt to get a career going in New York he returned to Louisiana and played drums with the Rhythm Ramblers. In the 1950s he played alongside Harpo, Ivory Joe Hunter and Lightning Slim, among others. He migrated up to Memphis for a while, and then crossed the river into Arkansas, where he hooked up with King, who he referred to as “a mean character.”
After playing with King, Dotson moved away from the drums when Son Seals taught him how to play guitar. Dotson also played bass and piano, making him a valuable asset for recording sessions in Memphis in the ’60s.
He cut a 45, but didn’t really make a name for himself as a solo artist, so Dotson made his living as a traveling salesman, which he made his job for more than 30 years. He was a fixture on Houston’s blues scene starting in the 1990s, though in the early 2000s his health curbed his performance schedule. The Houston Blues Society had a benefit in his honor in 2014 to help offset his medical bills.
“I miss playing. I miss it very much,” he told the Chronicle at the time. “That’s a good feeling when you’re playing, and you see happy faces. Feeling good about what you’re doing.”