Reginald Herbert Dixon, MBE, ARCM (16 October 1904 – 9 May 1985), was an English theatre organist who was primarily known for his position as organist at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool, a position he held from March 1930 until March 1970. He made and sold more recordings than any other organist before him, or since. He was in high demand throughout the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. During his fifty-year career he was one of the top-selling artists, his prolific output ranking alongside that of Victor Sylvester and Bing Crosby.
Although he earned the title Mr Blackpool, Dixon was born in Sheffield on October 16, 1904, to Richard and Agnes Dixon. His musical talents soon came to the fore and as a youngster he was a keen pianist, with an ambition to be a concert pianist.
He played church organs, before getting work playing piano for the silent films at the Stocksbridge Palace, Sheffield, for £3 per week. Later he played at the Chesterfield Picture House and Derby Regent, before moving to play the Wurlizter at the Victoria,
Preston, where he stayed for a short time and lost his job after a disagreement with the management. His lucky break came when he visited the Tower Ballroom with his girlfriend Vera and learned from the Tower's organist, Max Bruce, that a new organist would shortly be needed. The Tower had installed an American-made Wurlitzer at a cost of about £10,000. It boasted many sounds of cathedral chimes, bird song and breaking waves. With its 1000 pipes, 1200 magnets, two keyboards and ten ranks of pipes, it was considered the best organ in the world.
He was asked at his audition if he could play dance music and said yes, although he was not sure that he could. Yet he got the job and started his first season in May, 1930. The Wurlizter, which had been proving difficult to handle, was mastered by Dixon and he went on to draw in the crowds to the Tower. He shared alternate spots with the Bertini Band in the thirties and later shared the stage for many years with the Charlie Barlow Band.
The start of a long and successful career co-incided with a lengthy happy marriage to Vera, whom he married at Preston Register Office shortly after his audition at the Tower. He did numerous broadcasts for the BBC and by the late thirties he notched up his 500th broadcast, playing to listeners worldwide. A new and much larger Wurlitzer was purchased for Dixon in the mid-thirties and built to his own specification. Organist Horace Finch took over the old machine, which moved to the Winter Gardens' Empress Ballroom.
In 1940, Dixon joined the R.A.F. During his time there, he was often called upon to entertain service personnel, and was still to be heard on radio occasionally, as well as playing for concerts at the Tower Ballroom. While in the RAF he attained the rank of Flying Officer, and he left the RAF as Squadron Leader. In 1946, he returned to the tower, and was busier than ever. In addition to his Tower broadcasts, he was also broadcasting from Europe.
Here's "Sabre Dance" from above E.P.
In the fifties and sixties his broadcasts from the Tower included Blackpool Nights, with famous stars of the day. He played the Royal Command Performance from the Blackpool Opera House in 1955.
In 1956, the Tower Ballroom and organ were damaged in a fire and most of Dixon's sheet music was lost. The venue was closed and Dixon moved to the Empress Ballroom, until the Tower Ballroom was restored. He made a welcome return in 1958 with a rebuilt Wurlizter.
As well as playing popular music, Dixon was a classical pianist and he also worked for charities. He received the MBE in 1966 and switched on the illuminations the same year. Over the years, he sold many records, earning a Gold Disc in 1981.
At the age of 65, Dixon retired from his 40-year residency at the Tower and did an Easter farewell concert with the Northern Dance Orchestra and Vince Hill in 1970, when fans said a fond farewell. He continued to do the occasional charity show.
Dixon outlived his wife Vera and died in his sleep at the age of 80 on May 9, 1985.
(Info Wikipedia and mainly from an article by Pamela Watford @ the stage.co.uk)