Born Eddie Jones on December 10, 1926 in Greenwood, Mississippi, USA
Eddie Jones, better known as ‘Guitar Slim’, was a New Orleans Blues guitarist mainly during the 1940s and 1950s, best known for the million-selling song, produced by Johnny Vincent at Speciality Records, ‘The Things That I Used To Do’, listed in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 ‘Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll’.
One of the things I like about Eddie is his guitar sound – not just because he liked a distorted edge (fairly unusual during that period), but more for that kind of echo-like hollow sound that typified the then emerging ‘rock’n’roll’ guitar sound.
His mother died when he was only five, and his grandmother raised him as he spent his teen years in the cotton fields. He spent his free time at the local juke joints where he started performing as a singer and/or dancer; he was considered to be a pretty good dancer.
After serving his country in the military during WW2, he started performing in clubs around New Orleans, he was particularly influenced by T-Bone Walker and Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown’ (another Blues ‘great’ that I admire, featured elsewhere in this blog).
About 1950 he adopted the stage name ‘Guitar Slim’ and started becoming known for his exciting stage act. He wore bright-coloured suits and dyed his hair to match them, had an assistant follow him around the audience with up to 350 feet of lead between guitar and amp, and would occasionally get up on his assistant’s shoulders, or even take his guitar outside the club and bring traffic to a stop. His sound was just as unusual – he was playing distorted guitar more than a decade before most other rock guitarists and his gospel-influenced vocals were readily identifiable.
His first recording session was in 1951, and he had a minor R&B hit in 1952 with ‘Feelin’ Sad’, which Ray Charles covered. Certainly in my view, if none other than Ray Charles covers one of your songs, you’ve pretty much arrived. His biggest success was ‘The Things That I Used To Do’ (1954), produced by a young Ray Charles. The song spent weeks at number one in the R&B charts and sold over a million copies, soon becoming a Blues standard.
Buddy Guy, Albert Collins and Frank Zappa were all influenced by Slim. Stevie Ray Vaughn recorded a typically blistering cover version of ‘The Things I Used To Do’. Also, SRV frequently included this number in his live set.
Sadly and perhaps stereo-typically, as his career faded, Guitar Slim became an alcoholic and consequently died of pneumonia in New York City. Slim is buried in a small cemetery in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Guitar Slim passed away February 7, 1959 (aged a mere 32).