Guitar Slim (Eddie
Eddie Jones was born near Greenwood, Mississippi in December of 1926. His musical interests were hones as a boy by the local church and his membership in the choir. At the age of 21 he was part of a small combo centered in New Orleans, and one of the band members was Huey Smith. With a variety of area musicians, Jones played many of the blues clubs in and around New Orleans during the late forties and into the fifties. He finally got a chance to show his stuff to record company representatives and was given time in the studio for Imperial records in early 1951. Recording as Eddie Jones & His Playboys Imperial releases #5134 with the tune "Bad Luck Is On Me (Woman Troubles)". That song was re-released on #5278 with "Crying In The Morning" as the flip side. A third record for Imperial was "Standing At The Station" on #5310.
None of the sides for Imperial went any where, and so the next time Jones had a chance to record it was in Nashville, Tennessee for the Jim Bullet label. Now recording as Eddie (Guitar Slim) Jones, Bullet #603 paired "Feeling Sad" and "Certainly All". This side also was a failure as far as sales and airplay were concerned, and it would be more than a year before Eddie Jones would have another chance in the recording studio - but when he did he would shake the world of R&B music upside down. Until then Jones honed his personal appearances into a memorable act, with loud flashy clothes, and a long extension cord into his amp which was cranked up to full volume. This allowed Jones to wander far from the center of the stage, down into the audience and even further. The word was out about this new wild bluesman now known near and far as Guitar Slim.
In late 1953 at New Orleans famous J & M recording studios, Slim got together with the backing band of Lloyd Lambert which included Charles Burbank, Joe Tillman, and Gus Fontenotte on saxes, Frank Mitchell on trumpet, Lambert on bass, Oscar Moore on drums, and a guest spot on piano by Ray Charles. The songs "The Things I Used To Do" and "Well I Done Got Over It" were released on Specialty Records #482. Specialty boss Art Rupe took a chance on recording Slim figuring he was a strict blues artist who would only appeal to a Southern, more rural audience. This record almost immediately destroyed that assumption. Northern urban R & B stations started playing "Things" and the public bought the record in droves. So much so that it became a number one national R & B hit that had big time staying power lasting for an incredible 42 weeks on the R & B charts ! It became one of the biggest sellers in Specialty's history. In May "The Story Of My Life" and "A Letter To My Girl Friend" were released on #490. Again big sales were the result and Guitar Slim was in great demand as a star act. He got to the stage of the Apollo Theater in late May as part of a strange bill that also featured New Orleans vocal group The Spiders, and Charlie Barnet's swing band.
That summer Slim and Chuck Willis do a number of one nighters in the Midwest, and wind up the tour with a huge sold out show in Kansas City along with Amos Milburn, Charles Brown, Margie Day, The Paul Williams Orch. and Slim and Chuck. With two solid hits in a row, Imperial Records jumps on the bandwagon re-issuing an old Guitar Slim side from 1951 - "Crying In The Morning" and "Bad Luck Is On Me (Woman Troubles)" on #5278. In July Guitar Slim and The Clovers tour the Southwest, and in August a big blues show with Slim T-Bone Walker, and Joe Turner will do a number of dates in Texas. In September Slim takes his act to the West Coast for some prime dates in the Los Angeles area.
In August Guitar Slim records "Later For You Baby" and "Trouble Don't Last" with Sax Mallard and Joe Tillman on tenor sax. In October "Sufferin' Mind" and "Twenty Five Lies" is released on Specialty #536. At this time Slim and Muddy Waters appear for a blues show at Los Angeles Savoy Ballroom. This time once again, Imperial is at it trying to horn in on Slim's popularity by re-issuing an old record from four years before - "Standing At The Station" and "New Arrival" as by Guitar Slim & His Playboys on #5310. Late in 1955 Slim has two more releases for Specialty - "Our Only Child" and "Stand By Me" on #542, and "I Got Sumpthin' For You" and "You're Gonna Miss Me" on #551.
The next year brought out "Quicksand" and "Think It Over" on Specialty #557, and "You Give Me Nothing But The Blues" and "Something To Remember You By" on #569. None of the later recordings for Specialty did as well as the first two and as the rock 'n roll years went on the label felt they would move elsewhere and so dropped Guitar Slim from the label. By 1957 Slim had been picked up (surprisingly) by Atco Records, part of the Atlantic combine. "Oh Yeah" and "Down Through The Years" were issued on Atco #6072. In late 1957 "It Hurts To Love Somebody Who Don't Love You" on #6079 generates sales and radio play (the flip side is "If I Should Lose You"). In early 1958 the follow up is ready on Atco #6108 - "I Won't Mind At All" and "Hello, How 'Ya Been, Goodbye", which reunites him with Lloyd Lambert from his early days on Specialty. Atco supports the disc with trade ads headlined "Portrait of a Philosopher", meaning Slim, of course. By February "I Won't Mind" is listed as Atco's best seller. In August of that year "When There's No Way Out" and "If I Had My Life To Live Over" is released on Atco #6120. At year's end Slim has some tunes on an Atco LP called "Rockin' Together" with Bobby Darin, The Coasters, King Curtis, The Chords, and Sensations.
Little more than one month later, Eddie Jones, Guitar Slim was dead of pneumonia in New York on February 7, 1959 at the age of 33. There was very little mention of the passing of Slim, certainly one reason was the death of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, only days before. But Guitar Slim was a giant in his own right. He combined the country blues, the twangy raunch of his over amplified guitar, and his free spirit into a singular performer, whose records only could hint at the great talent he possessed. Eddie Jones, "Guitar Slim", a true American original.
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