Any bandleader that names one combo after a common term for lunatics and another afer a writing implement is deserving of scrutiny. Vance Dixon brought both Dixon's Jazz Maniacs and Vance Dixon and His Pencils to the music scene of the '30s, presumably creating divisions between fans that would be more comfortable in an insane asylum or an office supply store. Dixon himself was a versatile entertainer who could solo on either alto saxophone or clarinet and break into a song if that was what the crowd wanted. He also had serious ambitions as a bandleader combined with skills as an arranger and leader, talents that were already getting him places in the early part of his career.
In 1925 Dixon resigned from his position as music director of Lois Deppe's Sereneaders to join the Sammy Stewart band in Chicago. The previous employment had already lasted "many years" according to biographer John Chilton; perhaps Dixon had gone to work for the band when he was still a teenager. Other Chicago collaborations followed such as playing with Clarence Jones in 1928 and Erskine Tate in 1930. He began leading his own groups as the new decade began, but his reign as boss only lasted a few years. Beginning in 1933 he was also associated with a house band at the Brooklyn Casa Mia club featuring the banjoist Ikey Robinson. The reedman and singer's last professional association of any note seems to have been with trumpeter June Clark in 1936. After that the Vance Dixon trail runs out; he is assumed to be dead, but the why and whereabouts are unknown. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi