Lightnin' Slim

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Lightnin' Slim (March 13, 1913- July 24, 1974) was an American blues singer and guitarist. His style was built on his grainy but expressive vocals and rudimentary guitar work, with usually nothing more than a harmonica and a drummer in support. Slim's music remained uniquely his own, the perfect blues raconteur, even when reshaping other's material to his dark, somber style. He also possessed one of the truly great voices of the blues; unadorned and unaffected.

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Lightnin' Slim is listed 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):

  • "There was a place in San Diego on the ground floor of the Maryland Hotel where you could buy R&B singles unobtainable elsewhere - all those Lightnin' Slim and Slim Harpo sides on the Excello label. (The reason you couldn't order them in the 'white-person record stores' was that Excello had a policy that if a store wanted to carry their R&B line, it also had to take their gospel catalog.) The only way I could get a Lightnin' Slim record was to travel a couple hundred miles and buy it secondhand, all scratched up."

His exhortation to "blow your harmonica, son" has become one of the great, mournful catchphrases of the blues. Zappa referenced this quote a few times, beginning with Trouble Every Day.

Zappa played Lightnin' Slim's song "Have Your Way" while he was a guest DJ at Dr. Demento's radio show in 1981. He told Demento that the guitar lick on the background of the song inspired him for the background music in Brown Shoes Don't Make It.

See also