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Friday, 24 February 2017

Driftin' Slim born 24 February 1919

Driftin' Slim (February 24, 1919 – September 15, 1977) was an African American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. 

Born Elmon Mickle, he learned at a young age the guitar and the harmonica, his main instrument, under the very strong influence of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson whom he met several times. This influence is particularly prevalent in his playing and his repertoire (many titles come from Sonny Boy's songbook). 

By the mid-'40s, he was playing the local juke joint circuit with Sonny Boy Williamson II and King Biscuit Boy drummer Peck Curtis while doing radio stints with stations KDRK and KGHI. Living in Little Rock and working for the local railroad company, Elmon formed his own blues band with such great musicians like Junior Brooks, Baby Face Turner, Sunny Blair... and appeared quite often in local radio programmes, sometime alongside Country Music harp masters Lonnie Glosson and Wayne Raney.  

In 1951, he recorded his first sides for the Modern label. ‘My Little Machine’ was released as the first Driftin Slim record, while others were issued under his real name, and others under the name of Junior Brooks, the guitarist in the band. In 1952, Ike Turner, then a young talent scout for Joe Bihari and Sam Phillips went to Little Rock and decided to record Mickle,. The records have gained a worldwide reputation today but at that time they went almost nowhere and Mickle/ Slim moved to California in 1957, seeking better paid job opportunities. 

There he will record sporadically for small outfits, sometimes his own and very often paying himself the studio fares and under different names like his own and T-Model Slim. His recordings were released on the - amongst others - Modern, RPM, Blue Horizon, Styletone, Milestone, Kent, and Flyright record labels. 

In the mid-50s, Slim relocated to Los Angeles, where he put his harp in a neck rack, got a hi-hat and kick drum, then took up guitar to play as a one-man band. His first recordings on the West coast were for the Elco label, who released his version of TV Slim‘s ‘Flatfoot Sam’ in 1959 which enjoyed a small local airplay.. But for the most part Mickle played for private parties and rarely appeared in clubs. And for economical reasons, he performed mostly as a one-man band, playing harp with a rack, guitar and a kit drums with his feet.

The Folk/Blues revival gave Slim the chance to play a lot of student coffee houses and campus parties, and he recorded several singles for small labels, often under the name ‘Model-T Slim’. It will take the interest of a bunch of young local blues fans, Henry Vestine and Bob Hite (from the blues-rock band Canned Heat), Bruce Bromberg and Frank Scott for Elmon to be "rediscovered" in 1966. He then appeared in several venues, recorded a whole album for Pete Welding.  

When he finally cut an album for Milestone Records, ‘Somebody Hoo-Doo’d the Hoo-Doo Man?’ in 1968, several of the tracks featured a full Blues Band. However, this proved to be Slim’s swan-song as declining health forced his retirement soon afterwards. He had to tour Europe but a bad cancer prevented him to be able to do so  and when he passed away in 1977 in Los Angeles, California on September 17th, 1977  a chapter of American music -- that of the one-man band -- had virtually died with him.  (Info edited from Wikipedia, All Music, All about the     


boppinbob said...

For a comprehensive collection of Driftimg Slim recordings go here:

Part 1


A big thank you to Gerard Herzhaft @ for the active links (but not for long!!)

Track listings are in pdf file in Part 1

Pudge said...

Sounds interesting. Can't wait to listen. Thank you for sharing Bob.