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Early Blues Interview
Magic Slim, singer/songwriter/guitarist,
Magic Slim & The Teardrops

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Magic Slim is one of the greatest living proponents of the intense, electrified, Mississippi-to-Chicago blues style that spawned much of the music played by modern blues artists and rockers.  

Magic Slim was born Morris Holt in Torrence, Mississippi, on 7th August 1937. His mother and father were sharecroppers; they lived on a farm where the young Slim would have little jobs to do. When he was 13 he got his hand caught in a cotton gin and he lost his little 'pinky' finger. Slim showed his musical talents early, singing in his church choir and playing piano. After his accident he couldnít play the piano anymore because he didnít have that little pinky finger so he picked up the guitar, working in the cotton fields during the week and playing the blues at house parties on weekends ......

"Magic Slim is a national treasure, one of the few true "bluesmen" still around, and at seventy years young he is playing and singing with as much passion and strength as ever".

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Magic Slim © Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Magic Slim, 21st Great British R&B Festival, Colne, Lancashire, August 2010

Alan:     Slim, thanks very much for agreeing to do this short interview.  What were your first musical memories growing up in Mississippi?

Slim:      Piano.

Alan:     Did you come from a musical family?

Slim:      No.  My Momma was the only one in our family who started to play.

Alan:     Did you always want to become a musician?

Slim:      Well, when you are in the country and you are a sharecropper, you donít know what you want to be.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:     You said you started with a piano, but then you switched to a guitar.

Slim:      After I got my hand hurt when I was about 14 and I couldnít play the piano because I didn't have the pinky finger then I switched over to the guitar.

Alan:     What kind of material were you playing in the early days?

Slim:      Blue grass, country and western.

Alan:     And what turned you on to blues?

Slim:      I first heard a song by John Lee Hooker, 'Boogie Chillun' and that was what turned me over to the blues.

Alan:     And you never looked back!

Slim:      Weeell, I just kept on goiní.

Alan:     How did you get the name Magic Slim?

Slim:      Magic Sam gave me that name.  You see I was slim and tall and I wasnít stickin' out nowhere.

Alan:     Lovely!  And you were in his band for quite a while?

Slim:      Yes indeed. Before he died, he told me, ďKeep that name because itís gonna make you famous one dayĒ.

Alan:     It certainly has.

Slim:      Well... Iím working on it!

Alan:     Whoís influenced you most in your music writing and playing?

Slim:      Iíll tell ya, I listened to all of it but I didnít have no special reason because I didnít want to teach myself to play like nobody.  I had to get my own sound.  But I would listen, to see which way I would go.  But I wouldnít play like nobody but nobody was tryin' to play like me so thatís how I came to it.

Alan:     So youíve got your own guitar style Ė tell me how you reproduce the sound of the slide guitar because it's different to everybody else.

Slim:      Well, I slide with my finger.  I donít use glass or nothing.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

Alan:     Youíve got a vast repertoire of songs. Are there any particular songs you play that have special meaning to you?

Slim:      All of 'em. All of 'em.

Alan:     You have received the W C Handy award for Best Blues Band six times. Was this special to you?

Slim:      Oh yeah, that was special.

Alan:     Tell me about the Teardrops - Jon McDonald on guitar, Chris Beidron on bass and Vernal Taylor on drums. When did you all get together?

Slim:      Oh, a long time ago.  Yeah. See when I first was in Chicago I was playing with a guy by the name of Robert Perkins and he had the name Teardrop,   Mr Pitiful and The Teardrops Ė that was the name of his band.  He always be crying and he was so in love with his old lady, oh I donít know what happened.  But he quit and I kept the band and he told me, "Take the name of the TeardropĒ so I kept it.

"Mr. Pitiful & The Teardrops played at a Chicago club named The Bo Weavil at 29th and Wentworth. Magic Slim become the band leader when Mr. Pitiful, who played bass, quit. After Mr. Pitiful left, the band went through a few changes before Slim changed the band name to Magic Slim & The Teardrops. In '73 Slim and the band took over the farmed Sunday afternoon jams at the Chicago South Side club Florence's from Hound Dog Taylor and began to establish themselves as the hottest, tightest blues band in Chicago".

Alan:     Tell me about the making of your new album, 'Raising the Bar'.  A mixture of old and new material.

Slim:      Practically, yeah.

Alan:     And it got to number 1 in the roots music charts I hear?

Slim:      Yeah.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:     Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?

Slim:      I donít know but a lot of guys playin the blues are putting too much funk in it.  For me, Iím not gonna change and Iím not gonna put that funk in.  Iím gonna stick with the blues.

Alan:     Thatís good.  So how do you see the future of blues music, do you think it will carry on?

Slim:      Well, the bluesíll never die.  The blues make it slow.  You take a rock and roll song and itíll be rolling but a month or two later you donít hear nothing else.  But the blues is steady coming on, steady coming on. 

Alan:     We always get back to the blues.

Slim:      Yeah!

Alan:     What do you think of it here at the Colne R&B Festival?

Slim:      I didn't know I was doing two shows before I left the States, but I donít feel bad about it because Iím playing with some friends that I know.  But one thing that theyíd better have is Mr Jack Daniels.  No Jack Daniels Ė no show!! Ha, ha, ha!!

Alan:     Thank you very much Slim.  I very much appreciate it. 

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
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Album available from Blind Pig Records:
Blind Pig Records

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