Guitar Slim

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Guitar Slim, born Eddie Jones (1926, Greenwood, Mississippi), is name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!" (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them".

He is also mentioned in "The Real Frank Zappa Book" (1989): "Don was also an R&B fiend, so I'd bring my 45s over and we'd listen for hours on end to obscure hits by the Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Guitar Slim, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Don & Dewey, the Spaniels, the Nutmegs, the Paragons, the Orchids, the etc., etc., etc."

He turned up in New Orleans in 1950, influenced by the atomic guitar energy of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown (also name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!"). But Slim's ringing, distorted guitar tone and gospel-enriched vocal style were his alone. He debuted on wax in 1951 with a mediocre session for Imperial that barely hinted at what would soon follow. A 1952 date for Bullet produced the impassioned "Feelin' Sad", later covered by Ray Charles (who would arrange and play piano on Slim's breakthrough hit the next year). With the emergence of the stunning "The Things That I Used to Do" on Art Rupe's Specialty logo, Slim's star rocketed to blazing ascendancy nationwide. Combining a swampy ambience with a churchy arrangement, the New Orleans-cut track was a monster hit, pacing the R&B charts for an amazing 14 weeks in 1954. Strangely, although he waxed several stunning follow-ups for Specialty in the same tortured vein - "The Story Of My Life", "Something to Remember You By", "Sufferin' Mind" - as well as the blistering rockers "Well I Done Got Over It", "Letter to My Girlfriend", and "Quicksand", Slim never charted again.

No 1950s blues guitarist even came close to equalling the flamboyant Guitar Slim in the showmanship department. Armed with an estimated 350 feet of cord between his axe and his amp, Slim would confidently stride onstage wearing a garishly hued suit of red, blue, or green - with his hair usually dyed to match! It's rare to find a blues guitarist hailing from Texas or Louisiana who doesn't cite Slim as one of his principal influences; Buddy Guy, Earl King, Guitar Shorty, Albert Collins, Chick Willis, and plenty more have enthusiastically testified to Slim's enduring sway.

Slim's lifestyle was as wild as his guitar work; excessive drinking and life in the fast lane took its inevitable toll over the years. He died in 1959 at age 32 of pneumonia.

Zappa and Guitar Slim

Zappa name-checked Guitar Slim on the cover of "Freak Out!". He named Slim's "The Story Of My Life" one of his Top 10 favorite records in Faves, Raves And Composers In Their Graves.

"I'm probably stylistically closer to Guitar Slim than anybody else. But since nobody knows what he did ...[laughter]. There's a couple of solos he played that I thought were landmarks – but they're very obscure." - Zappa's Inferno, interview for Guitar World, 1987.

"And I especially like Guitar Slim. His solo on "The Story Of My Life" (The Things That I Used To Do, Specialty) is one of the best early distorted guitar solos; it really sounds like he's mad at somebody." - One Size Fits All Interview.