Magic Slim is a living blues legend who migrated from the South to Chicago during the 40s and 50s. Slim plays raw intense blues, a style that uses no pedals down on the floor, just him. Slim has paved the way for rock as well as modern blues. Slim has been busy traveling to the juke joints in Mississippi to the nightclubs in Chicago and to concert stages throughout the world, he has built up a die hard fan base within it, and with his release on Blind Pig, "Raising The Bar," on CD, it has been receiving immense reviews and overwhelming recognition. Slim and The Teardrops performances have become legendary, and they play the blues with an undeniable intensity that will leave you out of breath on the floor and in need for more. This is a look into a man that's from the country and plays to audiences on stages all across the world.
This big man of the blues was born Morris Holt in Torrence, Mississippi on August 7th, 1937. His mother and father were sharecroppers; they lived on a farm and they all would get up early in the mornings and slop the hogs, feed the chickens, catch the mule and go out into the fields. "I still had to go to the field until I got age enough to leave home. I got little jobs around there when I was 13 and that was when I got my hand hurt. I hurt it in a cotton gin. I was at the gin and my hand got caught on a piece of wire going up in there, and I grabbed it and before I could turn it loose, I lost my little pinky finger." Slim showed his musical talents early, singing in his church choir and playing piano. After his accident he couldn't play the piano anymore because he didn't have that little pinky finger so he picked up the guitar. He made his first guitar out of bailing wire from a broom, which he nailed to a wall. "My Mama whopped me when I tore up her broom," he said, "but she let me keep on using it. My Mama said later that if she had known what I'd be into later, she wouldn't have given me a whopping."
It was in 1955 when Slim made his first trip to Chicago, to play for Magic Sam, a friend of his from home. Magic Sam also gave Slim tips on playing the guitar, and it was Sam who called his bass player "Magic Slim," because back then Slim was lean and tall and he learned from Sam quickly. Sam told Slim to develop his own guitar style. "Magic Sam told me, don't try to play like him, and don't try to play like no one else; he said get a sound of your own." Slim did get a sound of his own; his guitar tone is tough and cutting, united with a virbato formed by his fingers against the strings to reproduce the sound of a slide guitar while still being able to bend the note. Slim said, "I slide with my finger. I use nothing on my finger, a lot of players try to get a sound like me and I play the same guitar everybody else plays."
Slim's take on writing songs. "I just think of some words and write them down, think of some more and write them down, and then when I get enough words together I take out some and put some in there and make them rhyme together and then I learn them, then I put music to them." "My songs are either telling a story or asking a question. It's just a feelin'." I understand you do not practice or rehearse. "No, I don't." How do you make up your set lists for your shows? "I see what kind of crowd it is, I play a few songs and see how people react and just see if they are a dancin' crowd or an older crowd and go from there." Do you have a favorite CD? "No, I like them all." What about a song to play? "I don't know, I like to play all of them." "And I like to listen to blues, jazz, bluesgrass and country and western." Some of Slim's favorite places to play are Brazil, Paris, Russia and here at home in the U.S.
What accomplishment stand out in your mind? "I've done so many things that make me proud, for one I like to make the people happy when I''m playing on stage and two, when I won the Handy for "Best Blues Band."
Where do you think the blues is headed? "I think the blues is coming back now, there are a lot of these kids reading up on the blues and now they know where the blues came from. Some of them can play too; I don't know how they feel, because the blues is a feelin'. You have to feel the blues to play it." What advice do you have fo aspiring young guitarists? "If you want to play the blues, play the blues. If you are goin' to play rock, play rock. I didn't say not to learn everything else, whatever you want to be, be that."
Magic Slim is a man that came from the country; he was slim and tall trying to play the blues, now he can play the blues. And like Slim says, "If you want to play the blues, play the blues, if you don't feel the blues, leave it alone, cause you can't be playin' it if you don't feel it."
- by Linda Cunningham