Born Amos Easton on May 7, 1905 in Brunswick, Georgia, he was writing songs by the age of ten. Bumble Bee Slim worked a familiar and rudimentary approach towards producing the emerging definitive Chicago style. Despite this, in some areas he was said to be unpopular for reasons I don’t really understand, unless his superiority in sales was generating a little envy, his writing and performing were of a classic Blues calibre.
He was an itinerant singing guitarist across the U.S. in the 1920s in bars, halls, parties and juke joints. Much of what he performed he adapted from the innovative duo Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell. Slim built on Carr’s minimalist, relaxed vocal style and Blackwell’s guitar technique. In this picture on the left here, he has one of those metallic fronted acoustics, which I’ve had a go at myself and in certainly some of his recordings this would account for the slightly tinny edge.
During the mid-’30s, Bumble Bee Slim recorded a number of tracks for a variety of labels, including Bluebird, Vocalion, and Decca, becoming one of the most-recorded bluesmen of that decade – somewhat at odds with the faint echo of alleged unpopularity in some quarters.
Bumble Bee Slim left his home when he was still a teenager around 1920 to join the Ringling Brothers’ circus with whom he travelled (whilst performing on his own time) throughout the South and the Midwest for much of his adolescence and early adulthood before returning to Georgia, marrying briefly, and then heading north on a freight train to Indianapolis where he settled in 1928, playing local parties and dance halls.
During this time Bumble Bee Slim, being both good looking and personable was looking also to pursue a career in either comedy or acting.
I don’t know how the sobriquet ‘Bumble Bee Slim’ came about, but being a handsome easygoing guy, it may have an underlying womanising implication, the term ‘King Bee’ was occasionally used referring to a man in pursuit of a woman so Bumble Bee may be a derivative.
It wasn’t until around 1930, when he moved to Chicago, that he finally got recognition for his music and decided that the musical direction was the one he wanted to follow. After a few years in the city, he began a recording career; his first singles appeared on Bluebird. Slim wrote and recorded frequently during the mid-’30s, selling more records than most of his contemporaries.
Bumble Bee Slim moved back to Georgia in the late ’30s. After a few years he moved to Los Angeles. During the ’50s, Slim recorded some West Coast blues for Specialty and Pacific Jazz, which failed to gain much interest. He recorded his last album in 1962 for Pacific Jazz. For the remainder of his career Slim stuck to playing in small California clubs until his death.
Apart from the occasional grumble from the purist Blues aficionados, Bumble Bee Slim was a Blues legend of his time. He is remembered particularly for his ability to write great Blues lyrics and his vocal delivery.
Bumble Bee Slim passed away (at age 63) in 1968 in Los Angeles.