September 5, 1906 – March 17, 1995
Recording history: late 1940′s for RCA-Victor (as “Dr. Clayton’s Buddy”)/ Aristocrat/ Hy-tone/ Chance/ Tempo-Tone/ Mercury/ Apollo, early-mid-1950′s for Regal/ JOB/ Blue Lake/ Cobra, in 1960′s for Prestige/ Atomic/ Spivey/ World Pacific, 1970′s-1990′s for Red Beans/ Airway/ L&R/ Earwig/ Arcola/ BGO and others
Important/historic recordings: “Sunnyland Train”, “She Got A Thing Goin’ On”, “It’s You, Baby”, “Everytime I Get To Drinking”
Random fact: One of the earliest of the great Chicago-style pianists (he also had a hand in Muddy Waters meeting the Chess brothers for the first time), he also lived to be one of the oldest, outliving many of his contemporaries and even others he had influenced.
About: Born Albert Laundrew in Mississippi. First learned music on the organ and later started performing on piano at juke joints and parties. Moved to the Memphis, TN area in the 1920′s and performed all around Beale Street while meeting and playing with other blues artists of the area. Somewhere around the late 1930′s, he moved to Chicago as many other musicians had, and started working soon with people such as John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Floyd Jones.
From the late 1940′s through the late 1950′s, Sunnyland Slim recorded for many labels under his own name, and as a sideman with many other known blues artists. He was known for his right-hand trills and his loud, expressive vocals. Some sessions that come to mind are several featuring Big Walter Horton (one under the title of “Old Friends” featuring Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter, Floyd Jones and Honeyboy Edwards) and a session for World Pacific in the late 1960′s featuring George “Harmonica” Smith entitled “Slim’s Got His Thing Goin’ On” (around the same time George Smith recorded his “Tribute To Little Walter” album for the same label).
In later years Slim continued to play regularly in Chicago as well as festivals. Several health issues set him back from time to time, but Slim persevered until 1995 when he succumbed to kidney failure implications following a fall (at the age of 88). Considered to be one of the greatest traditional blues piano players.
Recommended Recordings in-print (some with harmonica):
- “Sad And Lonesome”- Jewel - nice session featuring Big Walter Horton
- “Slim’s Got His Thing Goin’ On” – Sequel - GREAT session with George “Harmonica” Smith (OUT OF PRINT)
- “Decoration Day” – Evidence – good recording with some harp by Carey Bell
- “Old Friends” - Earwig – later recording with some harp from Big Walter Horton
- “Be Careful How You Vote” - Earwig - later recording w/Eddie Taylor on guitar
I’ve found the best selection of blues harmonica CDs to be available at: