Memphis Slim-(September 3, 1915-February 24, 1988) was born John Len Chatman in Memphis, Tennessee. His father was named Peter Chatman. Peter Chatman was a pianist and this helped to inspire Memphis Slim to take up the piano as his instrument of choice. Memphis Slim developed into one of the finest songwriters and the history of the Blues and he used Peter Chatman as his pen name in honor of his father. Memphis started playing professionally in the 1930’s and played the honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints throughout the American South. In 1939, he moved to Chicago where he performed as a solo performer and started to back up artists such as Big Bill Broonzy. His professional name of Memphis Slim was given to him by Bluebird Records mogul, Lester Melrose.
The songs of Memphis Slim have been covered by anyone from Ray Charles to B.B. King. B.B. King had a huge hit with his version of “Everyday I Have the Blues.”
In 1959, Memphis Slim released one of the most important albums of his career “At the Gate of Horn.” “At the Gate of Horn,” features Memphis Slim’s smooth, almost Charles Brown styled vocals and his rolling piano. “At the Gate of Horn,” showcases Memphis Slim classics such as “Mother Earth” and “Steppin’ Out.” Also of note on “At the Gate of Horn” is the always exciting guitar work of Matt “Guitar” Murphy. The licks of Matt Murphy are supportive of the songs and never get in the way of Memphis Slim’s vocals and piano work.
In the 1960’s, tired of the grind of Chicago Clubs and unscrupulous record companies, Memphis Slim moved to Paris, France. He married a French woman who took over the management of his career and Memphis Slim was far more successful in Europe than he ever was in America. This is a must have album.
Three Favorite Song on the Album:
1. Mother Earth
2. Steppin’ Out
3. Sassy Mae
Youtube Video Reviews:
1. “Mother Earth,” is a stunning piece of Blues poetry. It states with Blues truth that “Don’t care how great you are and I don’t care what your worth. When it all ends up you got to go back to Mother earth.” Memphis Slim was an outstanding lyricist and it is demonstrated with clarity and feeling in this song. A bit of trivia: This was the last song that Jimi Hendrix played, jamming with Eric Burdon’s band War, the night before his Hendrix’s untimely death.
2. “Steppin’ Out,” is an exceptional instrumental that features some stunning guitar work by Matt “Guitar” Murphy. This song was redone by John Mayall, featuring Eric Clapton, on the landmark album, “John Mayall Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton.”
3. “Sassy Mae,” almost reminds one of the classic Elmore James shuffles where Elmore would play signature Robert Johnson guitar lines that never failed to excite Elmore’s audiences. Even though the title of this album gives the impression that this would be a live album, there is no audience applause of the album.