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Dixie Double Four Time?

billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
in History Posts: 642

So I was watching a video on a youtube channel that I follow about music and pop culture. The guy usually does a lot of research, but sometimes I think it is just basic internet research and not sure how much fact checking is done. Regardless, he was talking about Sultans of Swing and claimed that "Dixie double four time" is a music style that was popularized by Django Reinhardt. I love me some Dire Straits, but I had never heard this connection.

I Google-sleuthed to find this website ( and the relevant text pasted below.

Regarding the line, "The band was playing Dixie double four time," Dixie double is a style popularized by Django Reinhradt (and Les Paul in his early years) where the guitar goes quite fast and plays bass as well, all together.

Anyone else heard this before? I'm not a Dixieland guy, so there could be a dixie double style, but this just smacks of internet urban legend/folk etymology of sorts. Certainly good enough for a lazy Thursday discussion on the forum...😁


  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    edited June 17 Posts: 298

    Looks to me like a combination of flawed grammatical parsing and made-up history. First, I read the phrase with a comma between "dixie" and "double four time"--that is, they were playing dixie (dixieland jazz) at double time (4/4 at twice the nominal metronome setting). I've never heard "double time" called "double four time," but that doesn't mean that the term isn't used somewhere. The bad history would be attributing double-timing to Django and Les Paul, describing what sounds like high-speed thumbpicking a la Merle Travis, and calling it a style. So, yeah, amateur musicology/folk etymology--the sort of thing one sees all the time on Wikipedia. (Don't get me started on amateur literary criticism and the reinvention of wheels.)

  • Posts: 3,549

    I always thought the phrase "Dixie double four time" was coined by Knopfler himself. But hey, as urban myths go this one I like.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    edited June 17 Posts: 1,223

    "Dixie double" and any connection to Django seems made up on the spot. You listen to the Dire Straits song and there's a clear pause between dixie and double:

    A band is blowing Dixie, double four time

    Dixie of course being Dixieland style jazz, predating Django. And double four time likely just meaning "4/4", common time.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Hoyer, Epiphone x2, Burns x2, & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited June 17 Posts: 711

    Only a guess, but I suspect the joining of double and four in that phrase was just MK's way of fitting the rhythm required. Many songwriters are forced to take liberties with what may or may not be historically correct or even good grammar. So in this case we assume double means 4/4 anyway, so one of the two words double, or four, is already redundant, ie not needed, but then listening to how he sings the phrase the timing is a perfect match for his guitar playing in that song, so by saying "double four" to fit in that timing he effectively does "double" time. If he removed one syllable and said "playing Dixie, four four time" it would have only been dragging along on the beat and effectively removed that extra skip that echoes his guitar playing. Very clever in fact.

    Otherwise, just look at it as poetic licence where often redundant words are used to fit the timing, for example someone might refer to a 'dark black night' where at least one of those words is not needed. I would disregard that explanation on the songfacts website; it makes no sense anyway.

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,678

    Yeah, I agree with Chris.

    I wish I could remember the rock star’s name, but I dimly remember back in the 80’s or 90’s some musician/songwriter was asked by an interviewer if his lyrics were based upon real life incidents.

    I have never forgotten his brilliant reply—-

    ”Yeah, my songs are based upon real life... right up to the point where they have to rhyme.”

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
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