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dimanche 27 janvier 2013

HARMONICA SLIM: TWO MISSING TRACKS

HARMONICA SLIM: TWO MISSING TRACKS


Grâce à notre ami Pierre Monnery, nous disposons désormais des deux derniers titres de Harmonica Slim (Travis Blaylock) qui manquaient dans le volume que je lui avais consacré dans ce blog.

Harmonica Slim, vcl/hca; band. Los Angeles, décembre 1960
08A. Buddah
09A. You

Désormais, les bluesophiles disposent enfin de l'intégrale réelle et complète de cet artiste qui mérite certainement d'être mieux reconnu.
                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT

Now well forgotten, Travis Blaylock however experienced during the 1950s some commercial success under the name Harmonica Slim, which even earned him to be the only Harmonica Slim on the market, forcing James Moore to abandon his Harmonica Slim nickname for Slim Harpo and Richard Riggins (who would make several very good disks for Fedora under this nickname later on) keeps his true surname. Travis Leonard Blaylock was born December 21, 1934 in Douglassville, a village of the Texas-Arkansas border, a border that his parents crossed a few years later to settle in the largest city of Texarkana. It was around the age of twelve that Travis Blaylock began playing the harmonica under the influence of several neighbors and the records of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He sang and played with a local gospel group, the Sunny South Gospel Singers. He was a close friend with guitarist Martin Fulson (brother of Lowell) and they soon formed a small group who hosted a weekly radio show on station KCMC of Texarkana. In 1949, Travis moved to Los Angeles and integrated very quickly the important and very perennial scene of blues and R & B of that time, even becoming a part time member of the band of Lowell Fulson who included pianist Lloyd Glenn at that time. He recorded as a harmonica player with several West Coast sessions prior to founding, under the name Harmonica Slim, a small blues band which often included superb piano playing by Lloyd Glenn. During the 50's, Slim recorded a dozen titles between 1954 and 1960 that happily mixed Texas Country blues with arrangements much more sophisticated in the mould of the current R & B California sounds. "Mary Helen" and especially "You better believe it" (entering the Top 100 R & B) were small hits that allowed Harmonica Slim to be part of the great R & B tours crisscrossing the United States, in the company of Lowell Fulson, Percy Mayfield, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King. But the 1960s were lean years to Slim who had to take a job in the factory to make a living. At the end of the decade, T-Bone Walker brought Slim to producer Bob Thiele, who agreed to record a whole album for his label Bluestime in the company of jazz and R & B musicians like saxophonist Plas Johnson. Curiously enough, Thiele , (who recorded several times George Smith) found the style of Harmonica Slim too rural and "primitive" and decided to replace his blowing parts by those of Smith a much more urban and jazzy harpman that Slim. This album, quite unknown to most, and very rare to these days, has many qualities. After the death of his father in 1971, Harmonica Slim returned to care for his mother at Texarkana. He worked in a gas station while playing regularly with the local band of guitarist Nelson Carson. He recorded with them for Louis Guida in 1975-76, unfortunately those sessions remained unpublished. After the death of his mother, Harmonica Slim gave up the blues for good and was reborn Travis Blaylock, turned definitively to the gospel and the religion. He even become a Reverend of the local Baptist Church until he died on June 16, 1984 in Texarkana. I have already posted in this blog his almost complete recorded works minus two tracks of this artist.
Thanks to our good friend Pierre Monnery (a staunch blues collector), we have today the two tracks that were missing:

Harmonica Slim, vcl/hca; band. Los Angeles, décembre 1960
08A. Buddah
09A. You

All the other "Harmonica Slim" you could find here and there are by other Harmonica Slims, chiefly Richard Riggins.

                                                           Gérard HERZHAFT



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