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Lightnin' Slim

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Title: Lightnin' Slim  
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Subject: Excello Records, Born Under a Bad Sign (song), Mike Vernon (record producer), Blues, 1974 in music
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Lightnin' Slim

Lightnin' Slim
Lightnin' Slim on the cover of his Ace Records Winter Time Blues album
Background information
Born (1913-03-13)March 13, 1913
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died July 27, 1974(1974-07-27) (aged 61)
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Genres Louisiana blues, swamp blues
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Labels Excello, Stateside, Flyright

Lightnin' Slim (March 13, 1913 - July 27, 1974) was an African-American Louisiana blues musician,[1] who recorded for Excello Records and played in a style similar to its other Louisiana artists. Blues critic ED Denson has ranked him as one of the five great bluesmen of the 1950s, along with Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.


Lightnin' Slim was born Otis V. Hicks on a farm outside St. Louis, Missouri.[2] moving to Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of thirteen. Taught guitar by his older brother Layfield, Slim was playing in bars in Baton Rouge by the late 1940s.[3]

He debuted on J. D. "Jay" Miller's Feature Records label in 1954 with "Bad Luck Blues" ("If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all").[4] Slim then recorded for Excello Records for twelve years, starting in the mid-1950s, often collaborating with his brother-in-law, Slim Harpo and with harmonica player Lazy Lester.[4]

Slim took time off from the blues for a period of time and ended up working in a foundry in Pontiac, Michigan, which resulted in him suffering from constantly having his hands exposed to high temperatures. He was re-discovered by Fred Reif in 1970, in Pontiac, where he was living in a rented room at Slim Harpo's sister's house. Reif soon got him back performing again and a new recording contract with Excello, this time through Bud Howell, the present President of the company. His first gig was a reunion concert at the 1971 University of Chicago Folk Festival with Lazy Lester, whom Reif had brought from Baton Rouge in January 1971.

In the 1970s, Slim performed on tours in Europe,[3] both in the United Kingdom and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland where he was often accompanied by Moses "Whispering" Smith on harmonica. He last toured the UK in 1973, with the American Blues Legends package.[5]

In July 1974, Slim died of stomach cancer in Detroit, Michigan, aged 61.[6][7]

Slim has been cited as a major influence by several contemporary blues artists, including Captain Beefheart, who in a 1987 radio interview with Kristine McKenna, stated that Lightnin' Slim was the only artist he could recommend somebody listening to.



  • Rooster Blues (Excello 1960) re-release 1980 with 3 bonus tracks
  • A Long Drink of Blues (Stateside, 1964)
  • Bell Ringer (Excello, 1965)
  • London Gumbo (1971)
  • High & Low Down (Excello EX8018, 1971 and Sonet SNTF770, 1974) (CD re-release by Ace Records, 1994)
  • The Early Years (Flyright, 1976)
  • Trip To Chicago (Flyright, 1978)
  • Rollin' Stone (Flyright, 1989)
  • King Of The Swamp Blues 1954-1961 (Flyright, 1992)
  • Blue Lightning (Indigo Records, 1992)
  • I'm Evil (Excello, 1995)
  • Mighty Crazy (Ace, 1995)
  • Nothing But The Devil (Ace, 1996)
  • Winter Time Blues (the Later Excello Recordings 1962-1965) (Ace Records, CDCHD 674, 1998)
  • The Best Of Lightnin' Slim (Hip-O Select, 1999)

Individual Songs

"Farming Blues" 1954

See also


  1. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181.  
  2. ^ Cub Coda (2013). "Lightnin' Slim". Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Lightnin' Slim / Otis Hicks". Retrieved November 19, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. pp. 135–6.  
  5. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 266. CN 5585. 
  6. ^ John Broven (1983). South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous. Pelican Publishing Company. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 
  7. ^ Otis "Lightnin' Slim" Hicks at Find a Grave

External links

  • Lightnin' Slim profile
  • Lyrics of his songs
  • "LIGHTNIN' SLIM & WHISPERING SMITH - Live 1972": From the American Folk Blues Festival 1972, live in Paris on YouTube
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