Down Home Child : Sunnyland Slim©2008JCMarion


Albert Luandrew was born in September of 1905 on a farm in rural Mississippi (near the town of Vance). He began by picking out melodies on piano and organ in the local church where his father was the preacher. At the age of eighteen he ran away from his home and drifted to Memphis where he worked at a number of odd jobs, many allowing him to use his talent at the keyboard. He developed a rolling eight to the bar style which became popularly known as boogie woogie, and he became somewhat of a star performer around Memphis. By the early forties he moved North to Chicago as so many rural Blacks had done in an effort to secure work in defense plants around Chicago and Detroit.

While in Chicago he began to play neighborhood clubs and was featured with Baby Face Leroy, Doc Clayton, Tampa Red, and others. Soon he had his shot at a recording session. Being that his style was heavily influenced by Peter "Doctor" Clayton who passed away in 1946, Luandrew's first records for RCA Victor identified him on the label as "Doc Clayton's Buddy". The first was "Illinois Central" and "Sweet Lucy Blues" on RCA # 20-2733. This was followed by "Nappy Headed Woman" and "No Whiskey Blues" on # 2954, "Across The Hall Blues" and "Broke And Hungry" on # 3085, and "Farewell Little Girl" and "Walking With The Blues" on # 3235. In 1947 Luandrew had adopted the name of "Sunnyland Slim" from his often sung performance of the song "Sunnyland Train". He also appeared on a Specialty session doing vocals with the Jump Jackson band with Sax Mallard on the tune "Night Life Blues" on # 507.

Slim had met the Chess Brothers and recommended Muddy Waters to them as a good bet to make some noise as a Chicago blues performer, and the brothers were indeed impressed. They invited Slim to join Muddy in a session for their label called Aristocrat Records. Also on the session was bass player Big Crawford and Leroy Foster on drums. "Fly Right Little Girl" and "Johnson Machine Gun" were released on Aristocrat # 1301 late in 1947. Another recording from that session was "She Ain't Nowhere" and "My Baby My Baby" on # 1304, both listed as by Sunnyland Slim & Muddy Waters Combo. By 1948 he now had his own small band called Sunnyland Slim & His Sunnyland Boys with Floyd Jones on guitar and Little Walter on harmonica. They did a couple of records for the Tempo Tone label in Chicago in 1948. "Hard Times" and "School Days" on Tempo Tone # 1001 also featured Muddy Waters and Elga Edmunds on drums. The second record for the label was "Blues Baby" and "I Want My Baby" on # 1002 with Baby Face Leroy added to the band.

By the following year Sunnyland Slim & His Sunny Boys did some recording for the Hy-Tone label. Along with Slim there was Lonnie Johnson on guitar and Andrew Harris on bass. The records were "Jiving Boogie" and "Brown Skin Woman" on # 32, "Miss Bessie May" and "The Devil Is A Busy Man" on # 33, "My Heavy Load" and "Keep Your Hands Out Of My Money" on # 34, and "Five Foot Gal" and "I've Done You Wrong" on Hy-Tone # 37. This was followed by a session for Mercury Records also in Chicago that resulted in "Mud Kickin Woman" and "Everytime I Get To Drinking" on # 8132. On that session was Alex Atkins on sax, Robert Lockwood Jr. on guitar, Big Crawford on bass, and St. Louis Jimmy Oden. Continuing in 1950 "Bad Times" and "I'm A Lonsome Man" is released in January on Apollo # 416, and "Down Home Child" and "Sunnyland Special" released on JOB # 102. There was one further release by Slim in 1950 on the Sunny label recorded with Snooky Pryor with the tunes "Back To Korea Blues" and "It's All Over Now" on # 101.

In 1951 there was one record for the Regal label with the tunes "When I Was Young" and "Orphan Boy Blues" on # 3327 that was issued in July of the year. Then Slim did a few sessions for Chicago major label Mercury Records under the production of Bobby Shad. The first was part of Robert Lockwood Jr's combo with Big Man Wallace on drums with "Dig Myself A Hole" and Elmore James classic "Dust My Broom" on Mercury # 8260. That was followed by two releases under Sunnyland Slim & His Trio with Lockwood, Wallace, and Big Crawford. The first was "Hit The Road Again" and "Gin Drinkin Baby" on # 8264 and "Brown Skinned Woman" and "Ain't Nothing But A Child" on # 8277 which were released in early 1952. The Sunnyland Trio with trumpeter Billy Howell and Robert Lockwood Jr. recorded another side for JOB Records with "Leaving Your Town" and "Mary Lee (with Howell on vocal) on JOB # 1003. Slim then recorded a single record for Chicago's Opera label as "Delta Joe" with Baby face Leroy Foster on the songs "Roll, Tumble, And Slip" and "Train Time" released on Opera # 5 and on Chance Records with Four O'Clock Blues" and "I Cried" on # 1115.

The next year found Sunnyland Slim doing a session for Vee-Jay Records in nearby Gary, Indiana, but that time in the studio came to pass as the label did not issue any of the songs. Another area independent label did however. This was the Blue Lake label which recorded Slim with Eddie Taylor and Floyd Jones on guitars and Big Crawford on bass. The records released were "Going Back To Memphis" and "The Devil Is A Busy Man" on Blue Lake # 105 which shows decent sales in Chicago, and Shake It Baby" and "Bassology" on # 107. Back with JOB Records, he was billed as Sunnyland Slim & His Playboys ( Robert Lockwood Jr. on guitar, Ernest Cotton on sax, Big Crawford again on bass, and Alfred Wallace on drums) on "Shake It Baby" and "Woman Trouble" on JOB # 1105 released in July, and "That Woman" and "Four Day Bounce" featuring the mysterious Prince Candy on guitar on # 1108. Slim also recorded for the Club 51 label with the Lefty Bates Combo with Bates on guitar and Red Holloway on tenor sax on the songs "Be Mine Alone" and "Sad And Lonesome" on # 106. One last side for Chicago's independent R & B labels was a 1956 side for Cobra Records with Walter Horton on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers and Bob Woodfork on guitars, Willie Dixon on bass, and S.P. Leary on drums, for "It's You Baby" and "Highway 51" on Cobra # 5006.

Slim then recorded a number of LP albums in the early sixties. By the time the British led blues revival of the later sixties Slim appeared at many blues festivals and on college campuses across the country. He formed his own record label for a time called Airway Records and was a big draw in Europe, especially in England. He continued to be a great force in defining America's blues roots and recorded and appeared with many traditional blues performers as well as modern musicians (such as Canned Heat) in later years. In 1988 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Sunnyland Slim its National Heritage Fellowship for his lifelong performance of this native born American music. Slim passed in March of 1995 at age 87. Sunnyland Slim was a musical giant and a true original who has been a part of the blues scene for so many of its formative years and beyond.

CDs abound featuring the long career of Sunnyland Slim, and as usual there is a great deal of duplication in the songs that are included in these sets. This is by no means a complete list of music available by Slim, but is a representative number of collections that feature so much of his history. The most complete set is "Sunnyland Slim : The Classic Sides - 1947-1953" for JSP in 2007 which as a four cd set with 104 sides and is as definitive as it can get. Less time specific sets are from Classics (France) in "1949-1951" with 22 tracks, and "1952-1955" with 20 tracks; "The Cobra And JOB Sessions : 1949-1956" from Westside (UK) in 2001 contains 29 tracks; and "Patriarch Of The Blues : 1947-1952" for Opal Blues (Spain) with 23 tracks. Some live sets through the years are "Live At The D.C. Blues Society" for MapleShade in 1995 with 12 tracks; "Live In Chicago : 1963" for Varese Sarabande in 2003 with 18 tracks also featuring J.B. Lenoir and others; "Live In Europe : 1975" on Slim's own Airway label with 16 tracks; and "The Blues Wailed In Berkely" for Southland in 2007 with 14 tracks. Other interesting cds are "Sunnyland Train" for Evidence 1995 with 17 tracks; "Chicago Blues Session" for Southland in 1994 with 16 tracks; "Slim's Shout" for OBC in 1993 with 12 tracks; and finally "House Rent Party" for Delmark in 1993 with 15 tracks.

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