Thursday, February 21, 2013

Passings: Magic Slim (1937 - 2013)

Blues singer Magic Slim has died after being hospitalized in late-January for breathing problems. He was 75.

Slim had been on the road with his group, the Teardrops, when he began having trouble breathing. He was originally hospitalized in Phoenixville, PA but was moved to Philadelphia for further treatment. It appears that Slim had a number of medical problems that were affecting his health. According to a February 8 post on his official web page, he was being treated for " bleeding ulcers complicated by pre-existing issues with his kidneys, his lungs, his weight, and his heart."

Born Morris Holt in Torrence, MS, and was involved in music early as a choir singer and piano player. His days on the keyboard ended at the age of 13 when he lost his pinky finger in a cotton gin, so he taught himself to play guitar.

In 1955, Slim went to Chicago to visit his friend, Magic Sam, who helped Slim develop a unique guitar style that sounded like he was playing with a slide but was, in fact, being done just with his fingers.

After a short time in Chicago trying to break into the blues scene, Slim returned to Mississippi where he stayed until 1965. Upon his return, he formed the Teardrops with his brothers Nick and Lee Baby and proved himself worthy of being included in the local tradition.

While Slim did record a number of sides for various labels along with the album Born Under a Bad Sign for France's MCM Records, it wasn't until 1979, when he cut some tracks for Alligator Records' Living Chicago Blues series, that his star began to rise. Over the next 30+ years, Slim would record over thirty albums for Alligator, Isabel, Wolf, Blind Pig and other labels.

Over the years, members came and went from the Teardrops with one of the most notable and productive being during the thirteen years that John Primer was the group's guitarist. Other members included Jake Dawson and Slim's son, Shawn "Lil' Slim" Holt.

His final album, Bad Boy, came out in 2012. Magic Slim and the Teardrops have won six W.C. Handy Awards for Blues Band of the Year and Slim is nominated again this year for Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year.

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