Side One1 Messin' Around With The Blues
2 Midnight Jump
3 Darlin' I Miss You
4 Now I Got The Blues
5 Harlem Bound
6 Letter Home
1 Mistake In Life
2 Don't Ration My Love
3 Pacemaker Boogie
4 Grinder Man Blues
5 Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
6 Slim's Boogie
This is the first LP of a 2 LP set issued by Gusto in the late 1970s. Volume One is devoted to Memphis Slim while Volume Two features sides by Pete "Guitar" Lewis and Little Willie Littlefield. Volume Two will be posted in a few days time.
The Memphis Slim sides featured here, which were recorded in 1946 and 1947, were leased or bought in for release on King / Federal from the Chicago based Hy-Tone and Miracle labels. They represent a good sampling of the start of the rhythm and blues phase of the long career of Memphis Slim.
He was born in Memphis in 1915. According to the Red Saunders Research Foundation article on the Hy-Tone label, his real name was John L. Chatman and not Peter Chatman, which was the name under which he made his first recordings for the Okeh label in Chicago in August, 1940. He moved over to the Bluebird label in October, 1940, recording as Memphis Blues and then Memphis Slim, until the eve of the American entry into World War II in December 1941.
In early 1946 he recorded 8 sides for the small Hy-Tone label. There are six tracks on this collection which originate from Hy-Tone: "Mistake In Life" / "Grinder Man Blues" (Hy-Tone 10); "Slim's Boogie" (Hy-Tone 17); "Now I Got The Blues" / "Don't Ration My Love" (Hy-Tone 18) and "Letter Home" (Hy-Tone 19). All 8 Hy-Tone sides were leased to King in 1948 when Hy-Tone went out of business. All of these titles were subsequently released on King, but according to the Red Saunders Research Foundation, 4 of them were in fact re-recorded versions. "Letter Home" and "Slim's Boogie" are probably King remakes.
Slim started recording for Miracle in October 1946. "Darlin' I Miss You" (Miracle 102) dates from that month. He recorded four sessions for Miracle in 1947. "Pacemaker Boogie" / "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" (Miracle 110) and "Harlem Bound" (Miracle 111) date from the first session which was held in March. "Messin' Around With The Blues" / "Midnight Jump" (Miracle 125) were recorded at the final session in December 1947.
"Messin' Around With The Blues" topped the R&B charts in the spring of 1948. Slim had further chart success in the late 1940s and early 50s, recording R&B for Peacock, Premium, United (where Matt Murphy joined Slim's band) and VeeJay. The VeeJay recordings of 1958-59 were his last which were intended for the R&B market. As the 1950s turned to the 1960s Slim became part of the "blues revival," appearing at folk and jazz venues and recording for Verve, Folkways and Bluesville. In 1962 he moved to Paris and continued to record and play in Europe until the late 1980s. He died in 1988.
Memphis Slim is one of the few artists featured on this blog whom I have seen live - in Dundee in the mid-1980s. He was nothing short of sensational - just him, his piano and a drummer. However my abiding memory is of his outrageous flirting with a statuesque blonde lady who was sitting in the front row. Way to go, Slim.
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Volume 2 will be along soon!