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Women Who Rock the Fort: Shelly Dixon

Some performers start singing before they start talking. But some find their voice somewhat later. Shelly Dixon may have been the first to find her musical talents, but she had one nearby fan who was aware as well.

“I would sing secretly, behind closed doors, when I was growing up,” Dixon recalled. “My little sister says she used to listen to me through the wall. I was shy and didn’t have the confidence to sing in front of other people, and I didn’t have that choir experience in church or school.”

Growing up in Angola, Dixon has lived in Fort Wayne most of her life, and she became a young mother to a son which took much of her focus. But even by that time, she had found a musical outlet that made singing in public a less daunting task.

“When I was a teenager, I started writing songs. By the early 90s I knew five guitar chords, and I would just switch them around. Songwriting was a way to tell the truth about things I had been through and my plans for the future. It helped me to think things through.”

Photo by Bambi Guthrie

She began singing her songs in coffee shops around town, places like the much-missed Toast & Jam, as a singer/songwriter then with her Shelly Dixon Band who recorded a CD, Drive. She occasionally collaborated with bandmates on the music, but the lyrics remained her domain, a chance to share her story. But she said she took a break when those words weren’t coming to her as easily, when she realized she needed to live more life to have something to write. She came back to an acoustic partnership with Jeff McRae and now performs with guitarist Andy Pauquette.

“Each musician I’ve worked with brings different things to me. Andy has a different style of playing, and what he was doing would have me singing a song that I’d been singing for 10 years differently.”

Last year brought another break as first the lockdown then Dixon’s own bout with COVID kept her home for much of the year. That has been true again this year though she and Pauquette have been playing at Club Soda, something she hopes to do more in the future. She posts her upcoming gigs on Facebook and on the Whatzup calendar and hopes to build back up to her previous schedule of two to three times a week. With a wide range of musical styles – happy to tackle, country, pop, and rock – Shelly Dixon is a woman who knows how to rock Fort Wayne.

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