Living the blues may be an understatement. There is nothing nice about living the blues. When you talk to blues musicians, you can tell which ones actually live the blues by the lines on their faces, the callouses on their hands or the scars found everywhere else. These are the results of years of hard drinking and hard living. Those who show the signs truly live the blues. They stand up there under the hot lights and as the sweat runs down their faces, they play from the soul. There are only a handful of these blues warriors left, and I'm about to tell you about one -- one who comes from real blues blood!
His name is Guitar Slim Jr. Born Rodney Armstrong, Slim is the son of southern blues legend Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones, a trailblazer of the electric blues guitar best known for his powerful 1954 rendition of "Things I Used To Do." This, along with other songs he wrote, have been done as covers by an assortment of blues artists including Jimmie Hendrix, Jonny Copeland, Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Frank Zappa, to name a few. Unfortunetly, Guitar Slim's recording career lasted only 8 years, and he died in 1959 at the age of 32. His premature death may have robbed the music world of a future great artist, equal to BB King or Ray Charles. He lived hard and burned out fast. But today, from those ashes, a new blues legend has risen -- his son, Guitar Slim Jr., with blues blood flowing hot in his veins.
Slim's early life was a hard one, on the streets, and in a boys home by age 16. One day he recalled, "I was cruising the streets in Orleans and happened by a club where Little Richard was playing. I stood outside and listened to the guitar player and began to cry. My daddy was a guitar player, so I figured its gotta be in my blood." He turned that moment into his obession. "I'm not my daddy -- I do me. My blues come from the heart and go to the soul. When it comes out of the heart and hits the soul, its better than making love."
His obession with the blues paid off in 1988 when Slim was nominated for a grammy in the Best Traditional Blues Recording category for this first album, "The Story of My Life." Although he didn't win the grammy, the nomination boosted his career; and he became a well known name in blues circles.
Currently, Guitar Slim Jr. is blazing his own trail in the music world. With his new release, "Nothing Nice" featuring the Memphis Horsn, Slim cuts new ground while playing some of his father's old pieces on the disk. His gritty guitar sound is punctuated by a curve of sweetness. He has created a style all his own, threading R&B with a dash of soul and a deep twist of blues. The jazz sound is never too far out of reach, reflecting nearly two decades of work in blues clubs all over New Orleans.
On the creation of his newest release, "Nothing Nice," Slim literally bumped into his future producer, Bill Sturgis, one night in New Orleans. President of Warehouse Creek Recording Corporation, Bill Sturgis, tells of his experiences with Guitar Slim Jr. "I met Slim in New Orleans, and he took me on an amazing tour of the back alleys and blues bars. Slim showed me "his" city, and he introduced me to the men who make its music. We kept in touch, and eventually he visted me on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where Slim had a chance to mellow out a bit. It was on the Shore that Slim was able to sit in on a jam session with the Tams -- and it was then that I realized Slim had to make another recording! From there it was off to Memphis and Sun Studio. The final cut is a great variety of songs that reflect Slim's unique style and his feel for life."
Recorded live in the studio, with only one or two takes and a minimum of overdubs, the songs are recorded the way Slim sounds when performing at a club deep in the gut of New Orleans. Record producer George Wayne said, "We wanted to make more than a straight blues album. Taking advantage of Slim's soulful vocals was our objective." When referring to the making of "Nothing Nice," Wayne's partner and fellow producer, Art Wheeler, says he felt this experience was like "standing amid living blues mythology."
Guitar Slim Jr. is back and here to stay. He's survived a lot of raodblocks, but now he's in it for the long haul.