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John "Memphis Slim" Chatman (September 3, 1915, Memphis, Tennessee Ė February 24, 1988, in Paris, France) was a blues pianist, singer, and composer. He led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump-blues, included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. His 1952 composition "Every Day I Have the Blues" was recorded by Joe Williams, and Lowell Fulson, B. B. King, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Natalie Cole, , Jimi Hendrix, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Carlos antana, Lou Rawls, John Mayer to name a few. He cut over 500 recordings and influenced blues pianists that followed him for decades.
He spent most of the 1930s performing in honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints in Memphis, Arkansas, and southern Missouri. He settled in Chicago in 1937, shortly after teamed with Big Bill Broonzy in clubs. In the late 1940s he recorded two songs for Bluebird Records that became part of his repertoire for decades, "Beer Drinking Woman," and "Grinder Man Blues," which were released under the name "Memphis Slim," given to him by Bluebird's producer, Lester Melrose. Slim became a regular session musician for Bluebird, and his piano talents supported established stars such as John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Washboard Sam, and Jazz Gillum. In particular, many of Slim's recordings and performances until the mid-1940s were with guitarist and singer Broonzy, who had recruited Slim to be his piano player after Josh Altheimer's death in 1940.
Starting in the mid-1940s, Slim led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump-blues, generally included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano. Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, and Memphis Minnie, the newly dubbed "Memphis Slim and the Houserockers" and introduced a new sound to the evolving South Side blues, a seven piece ensemble that added horns in place of harmonica parts of traditional blues. During a successful period, he recorded many of the songs which he was associated, including "Messin' Around" (which reached number one on the R&B charts in 1948, "Harlem Bound," and, most notably, "Nobody Loves Me." In 1947, the day after producing a concert by Slim, Broonzy, and Williamson at New York City's Town Hall, folklorist Alan Lomax brought the three musicians to the Decca studios and recorded with Slim's on vocal and piano. Lomax presented sections of this recording on BBC radio in the early 1950s as a documentary titled The Art of the Negro, and later released an expanded version as the LP Blues in the Mississippi Night."
Memphis Slimís 1952 masterpiece composition "Every Day I Have the Blues," was recorded by Lowell Fulson, and B. B. King, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Natalie Cole, , Jimi Hendrix, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Carlos Santana, Lou Rawls, just to name a few.. The 1956 version by Joe Williams (Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings) was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1992. "Every Day I Have the Blues" is also seen in John Mayer's, Where The Light Is, a DVD (and CD) live recording in Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre featuring Steve Jordan (drums) and Pino Palladino (bass). In 1959 he recorded with guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy such as Memphis Slim at the Gate of the Horn, twelve of his compositions, includes songs "Mother Earth," "Gotta Find My Baby," "Rockin' the Blues," Steppin' Out," and "Slim's Blues."
Slim first appeared outside the United States in 1960, touring with Willie Dixon, with whom he returned to Europe in 1962 as a featured artist in the first of the series of American Folk Festival concerts organized by Dixon and promoter Willie Dixon that brought many notable blues artists to Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. The duo released several albums together on Folkways Records, including, Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village Gate with Pete Seeger, in 1962. That same year, he moved permanently to Paris and his engaging personality and well-honed presentation of playing, singing, and storytelling about the blues secured his position as the most prominent blues artist for nearly three decades. He appeared on television in numerous European countries, acted in several French films and wrote the score for another, and performed regularly in Paris, throughout Europe, and on return visits to the United States. In the last years of his life, he teamed up with respected jazz drummer George Collier. The two toured Europe together and became friends. After Collier in August 1987, Slim appeared in public very little. Two years before his death, Slim was named a Commander in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of France. In addition, the U.S. Senate honored Slim with the title of Ambassador-at-Large of Good Will.
Memphis Slim died on February 24, 1988, of renal failure in Paris, France, at the age of 72. He is buried at Galilee Memorial Gardens, Memphis Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
During his lifetime, he cut over 500 recordings and influenced blues pianists that followed him for decades.
In 1989, he was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame.