Memphis Slim / Sept 3, 1915 - Feb 24, 1988

Happy birthday to the great blues pianist/singer/songwriter icon John Chatman aka Memphis Slim. With his permanent move to France in 1963 he may very well have been the first truly international blues superstar.

The son of a musician in Memphis, he made his first records at 25 for Okeh under his father's name Pete Chatman. He toured around the South before hitting Chicago in '39, hooking up in a duo with Big Bill Broonzy and working as a session pianist for Bluebird Records.

In the mid '40s he started using saxophone and drumkit in his band, now called The House Rockers (Willie Dixon was the original bassist) they had a #1 hit in '48 with "Messin' Around". They cut a bundle of sides for various indy labels (Miracle, King, Peacock, Folkways, Vee Jay) and in 1960 he toured Europe for the first time and by '63 had relocated there.

He continued touring to great success, hitting the folk revival festivals and even doing some acting in French films. He lived to be 72, dying in Paris. He was a powerful pianist with a commanding stage presence and he helped to modernize the blues. Tunes like "Everyday I Have The Blues" (his now-standard 1949 arrangement was called "Nobody Loves Me") have been covered by artists from Count Basie to BB King to Jimi Hendrix to Fela Kuti to Natalie Cole.

Tagged: Big Bill Broonzy, blues, Celebrate Icons, Chicago, Memphis, Memphis Slim, piano

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