There are several blues musicians who have performed and recorded as "Guitar Slim." While Virginia native Alec Seward was among the first to cop that stage name, one vibrant and sadly short-lived "Slim" left in his wake a strongly influential legacy of great blues records that contributed mightily to the development of rock & roll. This particular Guitar Slim was born Edward "Eddie" Jones in western Mississippi and spent a good portion of the 1940s woodshedding in New Orleans, where he eventually wigged out and began closely emulating the sounds and presentational techniques of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. After establishing himself as a regular and well-received act at the Dew Drop Inn, Slim got his first crack at recording in May of 1951. Four sides subsequently issued on the Imperial label affirm the influence of Gatemouth Brown. Although the act was billed as Eddie Jones & His Playboys, on his song "New Arrival" the guitarist, backed by a rhythm section that included 17-year-old Huey "Piano" Smith, proudly introduced himself as "Guitar Slim." Late in 1952 Eddie (Guitar Slim) Jones cut two sides in Nashville, TN, for the newly founded J-B record label, a short-lived enterprise that producer Jim Bulliet created during a transitional period between his days as manager of Bullet Records and subsequent tenure as co-founder, with Sam Phillips, of the Sun label. As a J-B recording artist, Slim was briefly in the same catalog as Vivian Verson, Jack Dixon, Red Calhoun, and country vocalist Jimmy Mathis. Slim's definitive next step was to record for the Specialty label in New Orleans on October 27, 1953, backed by a band full of saxes and trumpet with Ray Charles in the rhythm section next to premiere R&B percussionist Oscar Moore. Slim's influence on the young Ray Charles is palpable here, and no doubt Screamin' Jay Hawkins must have listened carefully to Slim's delivery while paying close attention to his wild stage antics. Slim's howling vocal on his theme song, "Guitar Slim," prefigures the barking of many subsequent rock & rollers -- Don Harris and Dewey Terry come immediately to mind -- and there is no question but that Guitar Slim had something to do with the burgeoning popularity of the electric guitar during the 1950s. Specialty became his label of choice for a while, as he cut three more juicy tracks in Chicago on April 16, 1954, and six smoking sides in Los Angeles on September 28, 1954. These dates are important milestones in an all too brief career, for by February of 1959 Guitar Slim was dead of pneumonia at the age of 32. This precious compilation is essential listening for anyone attempting to understand the development of R&B, rock & roll, and subsequent developments in soul music during the late '50s and early '60s.
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