February 21, 2013 – Magic Slim was born Morris Holt on August 7, 1937 in Torrance near Grenada, Mississippi. The son of sharecroppers, he followed blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf to Chicago, claiming and developing his own place in the Chicago blues scene.
He gave up the piano and turned to guitar after losing his right pinky finger in a cotton gin accident at age 13. In 1955 he moved to Chicago with his friend and mentor Magic Sam. The elder, Magic Sam/Samuel Maghett let Morris play bass in his band, and gave him his nickname Magic Slim.
However, he soon returned to Mississippi to work and got his younger brother Nick interested in playing bass.
By 1965 he was back in Chicago and in 1970 brother Nick joined him in his group, the Teardrops. Slim’s recording career began in 1966, with the song “Scufflin'”, followed by a number of singles leading into the mid 1970s.
He became a Chicago blues fixture in his own right, developing a guitar style that blended a distinct vibrato with a slide-guitar-like sound formed with his bare fingers against the strings, rather than a slide. Known for playing with picks on both the thumb and index finger of his right hand – common in country and blue grass, but a somewhat unusual technique for the blues – Magic Slim was recognized as much for his powerful, gruff vocals as his musicianship. With 36 albums to his credit, Slim also was known for an encyclopedic mastery of the blues.
He recorded his first album in 1977, Born Under A Bad Sign and during the 1980s he won his first W.C. Handy Award.
In 1982, guitarist prodigy John Primer joined the Teardrops and stayed and played for him for 13 years. Releases include Spider in My Stew on Wolf Records, and a 1996 Blind Pig release called Scufflin’, which presented the post-Primer line-up with the new addition of the guitarist and singer Jake Dawson. In 1994 Slim moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Zoo Bar had been booking him for years. He was frequently accompanied by his son Shawn “Lil’ Slim” Holt, an accomplished guitarist and singer.
In 2003 Magic Slim and the Teardrops won the W.C. Handy Award as ‘Blues Band Of The Year’ for the sixth time.
Slim, who was a heavy smoker suffered from emphysema and heart problems, was forced by illness to cut short a tour with his band, the Teardrops, in late January. He was hospitalized in Phoenixville, but transferred later to Philadelphia.
There Magic Slim died from multiple ailments on 21 February 2013, at the age of 75.