West Coast jump blues singer and pianist Floyd Dixon was a vital link in the evolution from swing to R&B. The self-appointed "Mr. Magnificent," his energetic, raucous sound was a seminal influence on Ray Charles, anticipating the emergence of modern soul music by more than a decade. Born Jay Riggins, Jr., on February 8, 1929, in Marshall, TX, Dixon grew up not far from the Louisiana border, absorbing the blues, gospel, and roots music of bayou country. As a child he taught himself piano, and after his family relocated to Los Angeles in 1942 he worked as a drugstore clerk and golf caddie. Dixon later studied hotel management and pursued a career in professional football, but music remained his passion. After claiming top honors in a series of L.A. amateur showcases, he cut his debut single at the behest of bandleader Johnny Otis, issuing "Houston Jump" on the Swing Time label in 1948. With his mellow, after-hours blues approach, the fledgling Dixon earned endless comparisons to Charles Brown, who became his mentor and installed him in bassist Eddie Williams' band, the Brown Buddies. Dixon also signed a solo deal with Modern Records, scoring his first local hit with 1949's "Dallas Blues." "Mississippi Blues" followed a year later and proved a smash in the Deep South. Over the span of successive releases including "Cow Town," "Gloomy Baby," and "Shuffle Boogie," Dixon began developing his own signature sound, channeling the gospel and Delta blues influences of his youth to forge a gritty, dynamic approach that forecast the birth of rock & roll. While on tour with a young Ray Charles, he even suggested Charles shift away from Nat King Cole-inspired pop and "try it with more of a gospel flavor."