Thursday, December 10, 2009
Guitar Slim and the Origins of Electric Blues Guitar
Sorely missing from a post on New Orleans R&B artists that appeared last summer was the incredible work of Guitar Slim. Although originally from Mississippi, Eddie Jones or "Guitar Slim" made a name for himself in the thriving post WWII club scene in New Orleans in the late 1940's as a flashy onstage performer who used outlandish showmanship. Guitar Slim's early work is contemporaneous with T Bone Walker and Clarence Gatemouth Brown's, both of whom were establishing the groundwork for electric blues guitar in Houston at the Bronze Peacock Club and later recording for Don Robey's magnificent Peacock Records. Also, Johnny Guitar Watson and Lowell Fulson must be mentioned as early contributors to the nascent electric blues guitar sound, Fulson's early recordings on Chess and Watson's on the Keen label are seminal. Both, along with Guitar Slim, Walker and Gatemouth Brown, are the genuine pioneers of the electric blues guitar sound that was forged in the 1950's through these early recordings. I have been wanting to post on Guitar Slim for some time but only recently have his finest recordings, from the 1953-1954 period on the Specialty Label, been put up on youtube. His later recordings with the Atco label are yet to be shared. On these recordings one can appreciate Slim's hauntingly unique electric guitar style that would later inspire Earl Hooker, Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and and New Orleans guitarist Earl King, who also recorded for Specialty during the same time period. Finally, it's noteworthy that Stevie Ray Vaughn covered the Slim's best known recording, "The Things I used to Do," heard here.
Here is a nice sampling of of Guitar Slim's work from the early 1950's, almost all from the Specialty Label.
1) Twenty Five Lies- Wonderful full band New Orleans sound with hot tenor solo and great lyrics by Slim. Has a Jump Blues feel.
2) Quicksand - Great shuffle blues with fine sax solo followed by great guitar solo by Slim.
3) Somethin to Remember Me By - Classic slower blues with that distinct West Coast blues flaver. Outstanding vocals that anticipate soul that emerges in the early 1960s'. Very strong guitar solo.
4) Trouble Don't Last - Another slower blues with a tight orchestral accompaniment. UNique guitar solo with early use of amplified sound distortion, years before it became commonplace.
5) The Things I Used to Do - Wonderfully conceived recording with excellent horn section and a nice guitar lead. New Orleans style R&B with great vocals by Slim.