The Blues is a cruel mistress, and a man who sold millions of records can disappear into the footnotes of Blues history. Bumble Bee Slim was certainly not a one-hit-wonder, but he is not well remembered today. He came from the Piedmont area to make a name for himself in Chicago, as country Blues transformed into an urban music, and then took off to the West Coast in his later years. Slim’s easy-going, often humorous vocals and versatile guitar work are all but lost to modern listeners, but there was a time when he was on the cutting edge.
Now known as Bumble Bee Slim, probably after a Memphis Minnie song, he was a prolific recording artist throughout the 30s, cutting over 150 tracks, and often paired with pianists Black Bob or Cripple Clarence Lofton. The mid-30s ensemble style developed by experienced groups of studio musicians laid much of the groundwork for the modern Blues Band. As a best selling artist, Slim would have his pick of the top side-men, typically playing with Albert Ammons on piano and Lonnie Johnson on guitar and he chose some quality lyrics too, with his song ‘Someday Things Will be Breaking My Way’ which was an adaptation of ‘Sitting On Top of the World’. Despite being one of the most recorded Bluesmen in town, Slim moved back to Georgia in the late 30s. He re-surfaced on the West Coast in the mid-40s and resumed recording on the Specialty and Pacific Jazz labels in Los Angeles. Slim’s records did not sell well, despite his distinctive laid-back vocals being as strong as ever, but his style was perhaps considered dated. He continued to work on the California club scene and passed away in 1968, playing his acoustic Blues into his sunset years.