Memphis Slim Biography –
John “memphis slim” Chatman, 3 September 1915, Memphis, Tennessee, USA, d. 24 February 1988, Paris, France. One of the most popular performers of the blues idiom, Memphis Slim combined the barrelhouse/boogie-woogie piano style of the pre-war era with a sophisticated vocal intonation. A prolific songwriter, his best-known composition, ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’, has been the subject of numerous interpretations, and versions by Count Basie and B.B. King helped establish the song as a standard of its genre.
Although Slim began his career in 1934, deputizing for pianist Roosevelt Sykes, his reputation did not prosper until he moved to Chicago at the end of the decade. He supported many of the city’s best-known acts, including John Lee ‘Sonny Boy’ Williamson, and, in 1940, became the regular accompanist to Big Bill Broonzy. The artist made his recording debut for the Bluebird Records label that year but remained with Broonzy until 1944, when he formed his own group, the House Rockers.
In 1949, Slim enjoyed an R&B number 1 with ‘Messin’ Around’, the first in a series of successful singles, including ‘Blue And Lonesome’ (1949), ‘Mother Earth’ (1951) and ‘The Come Back’ (1953). He remained a popular attraction in Chicago throughout the ensuing decade, but following prestigious appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival, the artist moved to Paris, where he was domiciled from 1961 onwards. Slim toured and recorded extensively throughout Europe, an availability that, perversely, has irritated blues purists who view his work as overtly commercial. His later work certainly lacked the purpose of the young musician, but by the time of his death from kidney failure in 1988, Memphis Slim’s role in the development of blues was assured.
Memphis Slim Photo Gallery