Magic Slim
(August 7, 1937 – February 21, 2013)

He was born Morris Holt in the small community of Torrance, Mississippi. In his youth he began playing the piano but, after losing the little finger of his right hand in an accident at a cotton gin, switched to the guitar. When his family moved to nearby Grenada, he became friends with a boy six months older, Sam Maghett, who also played the guitar. In the mid-50s, Maghett moved to Chicago and became the magnetic bluesman Magic Sam; Holt followed, played bass for him and was rewarded – being six-and-a-half feet tall and, in those days, slender – with the nickname of Magic Slim. But competition on the Chicago blues scene was fierce, and Slim decided to go back to Mississippi and work on his craft.
He returned a decade later and formed the first lineup of the Teardrops, with his younger brothers Nick, on bass, and Douglas, on drums. They used to play at Florence's, one of the city's best-known blues clubs, when the resident act, Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers, were out of town, and in 1972 they took over the engagement.
Slim cut a couple of singles in the late 60s, but his recording career really started in 1976, with a pair of albums recorded at the Chicago club Ma Bea's by the French label MCM. There were further LPs for Black & Blue and Isabel, all recorded in France. In the US, Alligator Records taped four powerful performances in 1978 for their groundbreaking series Living Chicago Blues. Stronger still was the 1982 album Grand Slam, a studio recording (for Rooster Blues, a joint British-American enterprise) with the feel of a live set, deeply committed to the sound of the Muddy Waters band in its heyday.
For some years before, and several afterwards, Slim and the Teardrops, successively featuring the guitarists Junior Pettis and John Primer, played frequently at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, a city with a substantial blues audience, and five albums were taped there. In time, Slim made his home in Lincoln.
In 1990, he signed with the American blues label Blind Pig, an association that lasted for the rest of his life and produced eight albums and a best-of compilation. He was happiest with the kind of material he had honed over years of club work, and extending the range of his repertoire without distancing him from his roots required the knowledge and discretion of a producer such as Dick Shurman, who moulded Black Tornado (1998) into one of Slim's best albums. It also featured Slim's son Shawn, a guitarist who had recently rejoined the Teardrops. Blue Magic (2002) was produced by the New York blues-rock musician Popa Chubby, while Midnight Blues (2008) featured cameo appearances by James Cotton, Lonnie Brooks, Elvin Bishop and other blues luminaries. Slim's last album, Bad Boy (2012), affirmed his standing as one of the changeless icons of Chicago blues.
Slim received three WC Handy awards for albums he made for Wolf, and subsequently several Blues Music Association awards, including one for blues band of the year in 2003.