Artist Of The Day: Memphis Slim

posted by Shane German on 09/03/2019

Memphis Slim was born John Len Chatman, in Memphis, Tennessee on September 3rd 1915 and assuredly ranks with the greatest blues pianists of all time.

He spent most of the 1930s performing in honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints in West Memphis, Arkansas, and southeast Missouri.  He finally settled in Chicago in 1939

After World War II, Slim began leading bands that generally included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano, reflecting the popular appeal of jump blues.

With the decline of blues recording by the major labels, Slim worked with emerging independent labels. Starting in late 1945, he recorded with trios for the small Chicago-based Hy-Tone Records.

Slim did not have a steady relationship with a record company until 1958, when he signed with Vee-Jay Records.

Slim exhibited his perpetually independent mindset by leaving the country for good in 1962.

A tour of Europe in partnership with bassist Willie Dixon a couple of years earlier had so intrigued the pianist that he permanently moved to Paris, where recording and touring possibilities seemed limitless and the veteran pianist was treated with the respect too often denied even African-American blues stars at home back then.

He remained there until his 1988 death, enjoying his stature as expatriate blues royalty.

He made over 500 recordings and was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989.

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