Another Blues Legend Gone Home
By Michael Gee
photographs by Dennis Tuttle
Magic Slim was born Morris Holt on August 7th, 1937, in Torrence, Mississippi. Being from a family of sharecroppers, Slim’s story begins with experiences very similar to a countless number of his mentors and peers.
In the beginning Morris was a piano player but was forced to give up playing the piano when he lost his little finger in a cotton gin mishap.
He first came to Chicago in 1955 with his friend and mentor Magic Sam. The elder Magic Sam let the younger Slim play bass with his band, and gave him his nickname. At first Slim was not regarded highly by his peers and decided to return to Mississippi. By 1965 he was back in Chicago, this time playing guitar, and in 1970 his brother Nick joined him in his group, the Teardrops.
Slim’s recording career began in 1966 with the song “Scufflin’”, followed by a number of singles spanning into the mid-1970’s. He recorded his first album in 1977, Born Under A Bad Sign, for the French MCM label. During the 1980s Slim released titles on Alligator, Rooster Blues and Wolf Records, and won his first W.C. Handy Award in 1980 when he recorded his cover version of “Mustang Sally”.
In 1982 guitarist John Primer joined The Teardrops and stayed for 13 years. Releases include “Spider in My Stew” and a re-release of the song “Scufflin”. In 1994, Slim moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. Magic Slim was frequently accompanied by his son, guitarist and singer “Lil’ Slim” Holt.
In 2003, Magic Slim and The Teardrops won the W.C. Handy Award for the sixth time, and in 2005 released a live performance on CD and DVD called “Anything Can Happen”.
A long-time favorite in Kalamazoo, Magic Slim was a popular performer at Wonderful’s Funky Basement, and helped inaugurate the newly opened 411 Club on August 31, 2008. A second show at the 411 Club followed on February 20, 2009. He was scheduled to take the stage at the State Theater for the second time, having previously appeared on February 15, 2008, on March 1 as part of the WRKR Blues Series; that show has been rescheduled with Chicago blues/rock band Nick Moss and the Fliptops.
New York Times: “Magic Slim, a singer and guitarist acclaimed as a keeper of the flame of electrified Chicago blues, died on Thursday in Philadelphia. He was 75. His death was announced by Blind Pig Records, the label for which he had recorded since 1990. No cause was given, but he was known to have been dealing with a variety of health problems and had been hospitalized a few weeks ago while on tour.”
The passing of a legend is always a sad moment. As we take a moment to look at Magic Slim’s life and reflect on everything he and so many others have given us, one must take a look at the blues, largely regarded as the only truly American art-form. Born of one of the darkest periods in our history, the blues has been passed from one generation to the next, each one picking it up, allowing it to enlighten and inspire them, placing their own mark on the music and then putting it down again for another generation to do the same.
You have given us so much… Your voice, your thoughts, your feelings and your soul… Made many smile and others cry… Your touch has kept the blues alive and left your impression forever… And now to another…
Rest in Peace, my Friend.