(September 3, 1915 – February 24, 1988) was an American Blues Pianist, (and in my view absolute master of that kind of lumpy off beat feel), singer, and composer. He led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump blues, included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. A song he first cut in 1947, “Every Day I Have The Blues”, has become a blues standard, recorded by many other artists. He made over 500 recordings.
Memphis Slim’s birth name was John Len Chatman, and he was born in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. His father Peter Chatman sang, played piano and guitar, and operated juke joints, and it is now commonly believed that he took the name to honour his father when he first recorded for Okeh Records in 1940. Although he started performing under the name Memphis Slim later that same year, he continued to publish songs under the name Peter Chatman.
He spent most of the 1930s performing in honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints in West Memphis, Arkansas, and southeast Missouri. He settled in Chicago in 1939, and began teaming with Big Bill Broonzy in clubs soon afterward. In 1940 and 1941 he recorded two songs for Bluebird Records that became part of his repertoire for decades, “Beer Drinking Woman,” and “Grinder Man Blues.” These were released under the name “Memphis Slim,” given to him by Bluebird’s producer, Lester Melrose.
After World War 2, Slim began leading bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump-blues, generally included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. With the decline of blues recording by the majors, Slim worked with the emerging independent labels. Starting in late 1945, he recorded with trios for the small Chicago-based label Hy-Tone. With a lineup of alto saxophone, tenor sax, piano, and string bass (Willie Dixon played the instrument on the first session), he signed with the Miracle label in the fall of 1946. One of the numbers recorded at the first session was the ebullient boogie “Rockin’ the House,” from which his band would take its name. Slim and the House Rockers recorded mainly for Miracle through 1949, enjoying commercial success. In 1949, Slim expanded his combo to a quintet by adding a drummer; the group was now spending most of its time on tour, leading to off-contract recording sessions for King in Cincinnati and Peacock in Houston.
One of Slim’s 1947 recordings for Miracle, released in 1949, was originally titled “Nobody Loves Me”. It has become famous as “Every Day I Have the Blues.”
In 1989, he was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.