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Blues News: Magic Slim Dies


Magic Slim, a revered and towering figure in the field of traditional Chicago blues, died today in a Philadelphia hospital at the age of 75. Born Morris Holt in Torrance, Mississippi in 1937, the guitarist performer, bandleader, and recording artist went on to enjoy a career that launched him to national and international recognition and acclaim.

Slim was one of the foremost practitioners of the raw, gut-bucket, back alley blues associated with the postwar Chicago blues sound. He and his band, the Teardrops, were known as "the last real Chicago blues band" for their authentic, no-frills, straight-no-chaser performance of the music.

Slim's slash and burn guitar technique and booming vocals made for a commanding stage presence. His intense style was the blueprint that spawned much of the music played by modern blues artists and rockers.  After catching one of Slim's electrifying live shows at a local nightclub Eddie Vetter invited Slim to open Pearl Jam's concert in Chicago.  Magic Slim also had an encyclopedic repertoire of hundreds of blues songs in his head, giving his live shows a charming impromptu quality.

Growing up in Grenada, Mississippi, Slim took an early interest in music, singing in the church choir, and fashioning a guitar for himself with baling wire from a broom, which he nailed to the wall. "Mama whooped me for that," recalled Slim. His first love was the piano, but having lost the little finger on his right hand in a cotton gin accident, he found it difficult to play properly. Undaunted, he simply switched to guitar, working in the cotton fields during the week and playing the blues at house parties on weekends.  In 2011 the state of Mississippi erected a Blues Trail Marker in Slim's honor in front of a building in Grenada where his mother operated a restaurant.

In 1955, like many musicians from the Deep South, Slim migrated to Chicago, where he was mentored by his friend Magic Sam, who gave the lanky Morris his lifelong stage moniker.  Initially discouraged by the highly competitive local music scene, Slim went back to Mississippi and spent the next five years woodshedding and perfecting his craft.  He confidently returned to Chicago and became a formidable player on the scene, eventually putting together the Teardrops, who would become one of the busiest and best-loved blues bands around, and one of the most sought-after headliners for festivals in Europe, Japan, and South America.  Slim and his group won the coveted Blues Music Award in 2003 as "Blues Band of the Year," one of six times Slim won a BMA, considered the highest honor in the blues.  Living Blues magazine called Slim and the Teardrops "a national treasure."

Slim's recording career began with a series of singles in 1966, and he recorded his first album for a French label in 1977.  With the release of Gravel Road in 1990, he began a twenty-two year association with Blind Pig Records, who issued ten albums and a live DVD over that span.  His last release, 2012's Bay Boy, proved that Slim could still deliver the goods. As No Depression said, "Magic Slim doesn't just play the blues, he body slams his audiences with a vicious guitar attack that pins them to the floor. His blues are the in-your-face variety."  AllMusicGuide added, "Magic Slim turned 75 in 2012, but his growling vocals have the fire and brimstone of a Young Lion and his guitar playing is still as razor-sharp as it was when he turned pro in the '50s."

Blind Pig Records owner Jerry Del Giudice said, "Magic Slim embodied the heart and soul of this label.  It was Magic Slim, and the guys like him, and their music, that inspired us to start the label in the first place."

Blues Revue once remarked, "Whoever the house band in blues heaven may be, even money says they're wearing out Magic Slim albums trying to get that Teardrops sound down cold."  Now Slim can assume his rightful place as the leader of that band.

For a complete biography, please click HERE.  For publicity photos, please click HERE.  To see a video of Slim recording "Goin' To Mississippi" in the Blind Pig Chicago warehouse in April of 2002, please click HERE.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 01:35 Written by Pat Graham Thursday, 21 February 2013 15:49


Etta James Dies


Provided by Bob Corritore - Etta James January 25, 1938 - January 20, 2012. How many people have fallen in love while listening to the song "At Last" or shed a tear when listening to "I'd Rather Go Blind" or danced with delight and empowerment when the song "Tell Mama" would come on? That was the power of the legendary Etta James who died  today after a long struggle with numerous health issues. She was 73. Etta represented the human condition and all of its imperfections of which she could sing about with an experienced vulnerability that would seem to cut straight to your heart. Born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles, Etta began singing in church at age 5.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 01:36 Written by Pat Graham Saturday, 21 January 2012 08:23


Johnny Otis Dies


Provided by Bob Corritore - RIP Johnny Otis - December 28, 1921 to January 17, 2012. Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, who is best known as Johnny Otis, was one of the true bedrock figures of blues, rhythm & blues & early rock & roll. He died at age 90 at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Altadena after years of decreasing health. Johnny Otis did it all: singer, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, bandleader, talent scout, radio show host, television show host, label owner, nightclub owner, sculptor and painter, author, and he even had his own brand of apple juice! He had a vibrant personality, a sharp look, and the ability to get things done.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 01:36 Written by Pat Graham Saturday, 21 January 2012 08:14


Hubert Sumlin Passes


Blues Blast Magazine - RIP Hubert Sumlin - November 16, 1931 to December 4, 2011

We lost another Blues legend this week with the passing of Hubert Sumlin. Hubert made his mark with his unique guitar playing as the long time guitarist for Howlin' Wolf.
His health has been failing for the last couple years. When we attended the 2010 Chicago Blues Fest Hubert had to cancel his scheduled afternoon appearance on an all-star panel celebrating the music of Howlin' Wolf.
We assumed we would not get to see him that day. But even though Hubert wasn't having the best day, he was not going to miss the chance to play with some of Howlin' Wolf's former band members.  To our pleasant surprise Hubert showed up to play with his oxygen tank in tow. It was a set he was not going to miss! He got to play with other Howlin’ Wolf alumni including Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, Jody Williams, Sam Lay, Henry Gray, Abb Locke and Corky Siegel.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 01:37 Written by Pat Graham Friday, 09 December 2011 07:26


Willie "Big Eyes" Smith Passes


Bob Corritore Blues Newsletter-RIP Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - January 19, 1936 to Sept 16th, 2011. It is with great sadness that we report the unexpected passing of one the true greats of the blues. Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. Willie passed away this morning of a stroke. He was 75 and was musically active until the very end. A brilliant drummer, harmonica player and vocalist, he represented the true essence of Chicago Blues, and was highly

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 01:37 Written by Pat Graham Sunday, 18 September 2011 01:27


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