|Birth name||John Len Chatman|
|Also known as||Peter Chatman|
|Born||September 3, 1915|
|Origin||Memphis, Tennessee, United States|
|Died||February 24, 1988
|Occupations||Vocalist, bandleader, composer|
|Years active||1930s – 1980s|
Memphis Slim (September 3, 1915 – February 24, 1988) was an American blues pianist, singer, and composer. He led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump blues, included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. A song he first cut in 1947, "Every Day I Have the Blues", has become a blues standard, recorded by many other artists. He made over 500 recordings.
Memphis Slim's birth name was John Len Chatman, and he was born in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. His father, Peter Chatman sang, played piano and guitar, and operated juke joints, and it is now commonly believed that he took the name to honor his father when he first recorded for Okeh Records in 1940. Although he started performing under the name Memphis Slim later that same year, he continued to publish songs under the name Peter Chatman.
He spent most of the 1930s performing in honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints in West Memphis, Arkansas, and southeast Missouri. He settled in Chicago in 1939, and began teaming with Big Bill Broonzy in clubs soon afterward. In 1940 and 1941 he recorded two songs for Bluebird Records that became part of his repertoire for decades, "Beer Drinking Woman," and "Grinder Man Blues." These were released under the name "Memphis Slim," given to him by Bluebird's producer, Lester Melrose. Slim became a regular session musician for Bluebird, and his piano talents supported established stars such as John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Washboard Sam, and Jazz Gillum. Many of Slim's recordings and performances until the mid-1940s were with guitarist and singer Broonzy, who had recruited Slim to be his piano player after Joshua Altheimer's death in 1940.
After World War II, Slim began leading bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump-blues, generally included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. With the decline of blues recording by the majors, Slim worked with the emerging independent labels. Starting in late 1945, he recorded with trios for the small Chicago-based label Hy-Tone. With a lineup of alto saxophone, tenor sax, piano, and string bass (Willie Dixon played the instrument on the first session), he signed with the Miracle label in the fall of 1946. One of the numbers recorded at the first session was the ebullient boogie "Rockin' the House," from which his band would take its name. Slim and the House Rockers recorded mainly for Miracle through 1949, enjoying commercial success. Among the songs they recorded were "Messin' Around" (which reached number one on the R&B charts in 1948 and "Harlem Bound." In 1947, the day after producing a concert by Slim, Broonzy, and Williamson at New York City's Town Hall, folklorist Alan Lomax brought the three musicians to the Decca studios and recorded with Slim's on vocal and piano. Lomax presented sections of this recording on BBC radio in the early 1950s as a documentary titled The Art of the Negro, and later released an expanded version as the LP Blues in the Mississippi Night. In 1949, Slim expanded his combo to a quintet by adding a drummer; the group was now spending most of its time on tour, leading to off-contract recording sessions for King in Cincinnati and Peacock in Houston.
One of Slim's 1947 recordings for Miracle, released in 1949, was originally titled "Nobody Loves Me". It has become famous as "Every Day I Have the Blues." The tune was recorded in 1950 by Lowell Fulson, and subsequently by a raft of artists including B. B. King, Elmore James, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Carlos Santana, John Mayer and Lou Rawls. Joe Williams recorded it in 1952 for Checker; his remake from 1956 (included in Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings) was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1992.
Early in 1950, Miracle succumbed to financial troubles, but its owners regrouped to form the Premium label, and Slim remained on board until the successor company faltered in the summer of 1951. His February 1951 session for Premium saw two changes in the House Rockers' lineup: Slim started using two tenor saxophones instead of the alto and tenor combination, and he made a trial of adding guitarist Ike Perkins. His last session for Premium kept the two-tenor lineup but dispensed with the guitar. During his time with Premium, Slim first recorded his song "Mother Earth".
Slim made just one session for King, but the company bought his Hy-Tone sides in 1948 and acquired his Miracle masters after it failed in 1950. He was never a Chess artist, but Leonard Chess bought most of the Premium masters after the failure.
After a year with Mercury Records, Slim signed with United Records in Chicago; the A&R man, Lew Simpkins, knew him from Miracle and Premium. The timing was propitious, because he had just added Matt "Guitar" Murphy to his group. He remained with United through the end of 1954, when the company began to cut back on blues recording.
Slim's next steady relationship with a record company had to wait until 1958, when he was picked up by Vee-Jay. In 1959 his band, still featuring Matt "Guitar" Murphy, cut LP Memphis Slim at the Gate of the Horn, which featured a lineup of his best known songs, including "Mother Earth," "Gotta Find My Baby," "Rockin' the Blues," "Steppin' Out", and "Slim's Blues."
Slim first appeared outside the United States in 1960, touring with Willie Dixon, with whom he returned to Europe in 1962 as a featured artist in the first of the series of American Folk Festival concerts organized by Dixon and promoter Willie Dixon that brought many notable blues artists to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. The duo released several albums together on Folkways Records, including, Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village Gate with Pete Seeger, in 1962. That same year, he moved permanently to Paris and his engaging personality and well-honed presentation of playing, singing, and storytelling about the blues secured his position as the most prominent blues artist for nearly three decades. He appeared on television in numerous European countries, acted in several French films and wrote the score for another, and performed regularly in Paris, throughout Europe, and on return visits to the United States. In the last years of his life, he teamed up with respected jazz drummer George Collier. The two toured Europe together and became friends. After Collier died in August 1987, Slim rarely appeared in public.
Two years before his death, Slim was named a Commander in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of France. In addition, the U.S. Senate honored Slim with the title of Ambassador-at-Large of Good Will.
|1959||Memphis Slim and the Real Boogie-Woogie||Folkways Records|
|1960||Memphis Slim and the Honky-Tonk Sound||Folkways Records|
|1960||Travelling with the Blues||Storyville|
|1960||Blue This Evening||Black Lion|
|1960||Pete Seeger at the Village Gate with Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon – Vol 1||Folkways Records|
|1960||Songs of Memphis Slim and "Wee Willie" Dixon||Folkways Records|
|1961||Tribute To Big Bill Broonzy||Candid|
|1961||Steady Rollin' Blues: The Blues Of Memphis Slim||OBC|
|1961||Memphis Slim U.S.A.||Candid|
|1961||Broken Soul Blues||Beat Goes On|
|1961||Alone with My Friends||Battle|
|1961||Chicago Blues: Boogie Woogie and Blues Played and Sung By Memphis Slim||Folkways Records|
|1961||Blues by Jazz Gillum Singing and Playing His Harmonica: With Arbee Stidham and Memphis Slim||Folkways Records|
|1962||Sonny Boy Williamson & Memphis Slim: In Paris||GNP Crescendo|
|1962||Pete Seeger at the Village Gate with Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon – Vol 2||Folkways Records|
|1962||Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village Gate with Pete Seeger||Folkways Records|
|1963||All Kinds of Blues||Bluesville|
|1963||Jazz in Paris: Aux Trois Mailletz||Polygram|
|1964||Clap Your Hands||Maison De Blues|
|1967||Bluesingly Yours||Maison De Blues|
|1968||Lord Have Mercy on Me||Maison De Blues|
|1969||The Bluesman||Maison De Blues|
|1969||Mother Earth||One Way Records|
|1970||The Blue Memphis Suite||Maison De Blues|
|1970||Messin' Around with the Blues: The Very Best Of||King|
|1971||Boogie Woogie||Maison De Blues|
|1971||Born with the Blues||Fuel 2000|
|1971||Blue Memphis||Wounded Bird|
|1972||South Side Reunion: Memphis Slim & Buddy Guy||Sunny Side|
|1972||Old Times, New Times: Memphis Slim with Roosevelt Sykes, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells||Barclay|
|1973||Legacy of the Blues, Vol 7: Memphis Slim||Gnp Crescendo|
|1973||Soul Blues||Acrobat Records|
|1973||Raining the Blues||Fantasy|
|1973||Memphis Slim – Favorite Blues Singers||Folkways Records|
|1973||Very Much Alive and in Montreux||Universal International|
|1975||Going Back To Tennessee||Maison De Blues|
|1981||Rockin' the Blues||Charly|
|1981||Memphis Heat: Canned Heat & Memphis Slim (recorded in 1970)||Sunny Side|
|1981||I'll Just Keep on Singin' the Blues||SLG, LLC|
|1990||Steppin' Out: Live at Ronnie Scotts||Castle Music UK|
|1990||Together Again One More Time/Still Not Ready For Eddie||Texas Music Group|
|1990||The Real Folk Blues||Mca|
|1992||Blues Masters Vol 9: Memphis Slim|
|1993||London Sessions 1960||Sequel Records UK|
|1994||The Blues Collection Vol 13: Beer Drinkin' Woman||ADD|
|1994||Live at the Hot Club||BMG International|
|1995||Boogie After Midnight||Chicago Music Co.|
|1996||The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1: 1940–1941 (Peter Chatman As Memphis Slim)||EPM Musique|
|1996||Come Back & Other Classics||Masters Intercontinental|
|1996||The Bluebird Recordings, 1940–1941||RCA|
|1997||Dialogue in Boogie: Memphis Slim & Philippe Lejeune||Happy Bird|
|1998||Very Best of Memphis Slim: The Blues Is Everywhere||Collectables|
|1999||Life Is Like That||Charly UK|
|2000||The Folkways Years, 1959–1973||Smithsonian Folkways|
|2000||Blues at Midnight||Catfish|
|2000||Memphis Slim at the Gate of the Horn||Vee-Jay|
|2001||The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2: 1946–1948||EPM Musique|
|2001||Blue and Lonesome||Arpeggio Blues|
|2001||Ambassador of the Blues||Indigo UK|
|2002||The Complete Recordings, Vol. 3: 1948–1950||EPM Musique|
|2002||I Am The Blues||Prestige Elite|
|2002||Kansas City||Classic World|
|2002||Boogie for My Friends||Black & Blue France|
|2002||The Come Back||Delmark|
|2002||Blues Legends: Memphis Slim||Lead|
|2003||Three Women Blues|
|2003||The Complete Recordings, Vol 4: 1951–1952||EPM Musique|
|2004||Worried Life Blues|
|2004||Grinder Man Blues||Snapper UK|
|2004||The Best of Memphis Slim||Liquid 8|
|2005||Boogie For 2 Pianos Vol 1: Memphis Slim & Jean-Paul Amouroux|
|2005||Paris Mississippi Blues||Sunny Side|
|2005||Double-Barreled Boogie: Memphis Slim & Roosvelt Sykes||Sunny Side|
|2006||Forty Years of More||Passport Audio|
|2006||Memphis Suite||Sunny Side|
|2006||Rockin' This House: Chicago Blues Piano 1946–1953 (CDs A&B)||JSP Records|
|2006||The Sonet Blues Story||Verve Records|
|2006||An Introduction to Memphis Slim||Fuel 2000|
|2007||The Ultimate Jazz Archive 14 1940–41 (1 of 4)||Carinco AG|
|2007||Sings the Blues||Wnts|
|2007||Chicago Blues Masters Vol 1: Muddy Waters And Memphis Slim||Capitol|
|2007||Cold Blooded Woman||Collectables Records|
|2008||Four Walls||Jukebox Entertainment|
|2008||Born To Boogie||Unlimited Media|
|2008||Legend of the Blues||Wounded Bird Records|
|2009||Fip Fil and Fim||101 Distribution|
- Chicago Blues Festival
- List of artists who reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart
- List of number-one rhythm and blues hits (United States)
- R&B number-one hits of 1948 (USA)
- Blues Hall of Fame
- List of Storyville Records artists
- List of people from Memphis
- Piano blues
- List of blues musicians
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Memphis Slim.|
- Charters, Samuel Barclay. The Legacy of the Blues, Da Capo Press (1977), p. 165 ISBN 0-306-80054-3
- Komara, Edward M. Encyclopedia of the Blues, Routledge (2006), p. 689 – ISBN 0-415-92699-8
- The Hy-Tone Label. http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/hytone.html Accessed August 1, 2009.
- Miracle Records. http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/miracle.html Accessed August 2, 2009.
- All Music: Every Day I Have the Blues[dead link]
- Grammy Hall of Fame Database
- The United and States Labels Part I (1951–1953). http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/unitedstates.html Accessed August 3, 2009
- The United and States Labels Part II (1954–1957) http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/unitedstates2.html Accessed August 3, 2009.
- All Music: 'Memphis Slim at the Gate of the Horn
- All About Jazz: Memphis Slim
- Find a Grave: Memphis Slim
- "Memphis Slim Discography". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
- "Memphis Slim Albums". amazon.com. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
15. Herzhaft (Gerard).- Encyclopedia of the blues. 2nd ed.- Arkansas Press, 1997
- Music Match Memphis Slim
- Memphis Slim biography and discography at Allmusic website
- Memphis Slim discography on Folkways Records
- Memphis Slim obituary from the New York Times