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Clarence Sims (born 1935), best known by his stage name, Fillmore Slim, is a blues vocalist and guitarist with five albums to his credit. During the 1960s and 1970s, he was also a highly renowned pimp in San Francisco, often referred to as "The West Coast Godfather of the Game" and "The Pope of Pimping".
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Fillmore began learning about the blues at an early age. "I done lived the blues," he once said in an interview. "The blues is about picking cotton, working in the fields, living on the streets, and you know I did all these things."
In 1955, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career, playing by himself in the street and later starting a band called Eddy N & the Blues Slayers. During this time he had a relationship with Etta James before she achieved her fame as a blues singer and recorded a few 45 rpm records himself. His most successful record from this time was titled "You Got the Nerve of a Brass Monkey".
Fillmore's life took a dramatic turn when one night, while playing a blues bar in Midland, Texas, he noticed a young woman who kept coming in and out of the bar. As he tells it, "Finally, she came up to me and said, "I like you. I want you to have this money." I asked her how she got all that money. She finally told me she was a hooker. I asked her what a hooker did, and she broke it on down for me." Upon returning to California, he relocated to San Francisco, bringing the girl along with him for extra income. He continued working as a musician, playing in Fillmore District clubs like the Trees Pool Hall and the old Fillmore Theater. He even scored gigs opening for B.B. King and Dinah Washington.
Eventually, however, Fillmore found the lure of pimping too strong and effectively left music behind. He built up a stable of prostitutes and had anywhere from ten to fifteen women working Fillmore Street everyday. His wardrobe consisted of sharkskin suits, alligator shoes and diamond watches, and he could often be seen cruising up and down Fillmore Street in a new Cadillac. In the documentary American Pimp, Fillmore estimates that, in his entire career as a pimp, he had about 8,000 to 9,000 prostitutes.
Return To Music
In 1980, while still working as a pimp, Fillmore received an offer to perform his music in France, but couldn't legally leave the country because he was on probation for a previous crime. While attempting to buy a forged passport, he was caught by authorities and was sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary.
He used the time in prison to polish his musical skills and was released a year early for good behavior. Upon reentering society, he lived in a halfway house in Oakland that was nearby to Eli's Mile Hi Club, one of Oakland's last authentic blues joints. He became friends with Eli's owner Troyce Key, who admired Fillmore's musical stylings and eventually recorded his first album called "Born to Sing the Blues", released in 1985. It was then that, in order to support the album, Fillmore put together a touring band and retired from pimping completely.
Several years of touring and playing gigs followed, which led to a record deal in 1999 with Fedora Records and an album called "Other Side of the Road", released in 2000. He has released two more CDs in the years since. Since his musical resurgence, Fillmore has found his largest fan base to be in Europe, where he's played the Zurich Blues Festival and the Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland among others.
"The Legend of Fillmore Slim" (2009)
"The Game *" (2004)
"Funky Mama's House" (2004)
"Other Side of the Road" (2000)
"Born to Sing the Blues" (1985)