Memphis Slim - piano, vocals; Willie Dixon - bass; Guest: Peter Seeger - banjo
One of the stars of the Thursday evening blues and jazz potpourri at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, bluesman and raconteur Memphis Slim led a potent duo featuring bassist and prolific composer Willie Dixon on upright bass. The man also known as Peter Chatman opens up with his mournful blues "Lonesome Traveler" (which appeared on his 1962 recording No Strain). Unfortunately, the E string on Dixon's bass is sadly flat and Slim's vocals are sadly drowned in the mix, although his blues-drenched ivory tickling comes in loud and clear.
Next up on the program is a rendition of Leroy Carr's bouncy number "We're Gonna Rock." Dixon's bass, in slightly better tune, is prominently featured here, as his signature slapping technique comes to the fore with Slim laying down a surging boogie woogie pattern underneath. Dixon soon steps forward to deliver a chilling rendition of "I Cry and Sing the Blues," a mournful slow blues he had written for guitarist Buddy Guy for a mid-'60s Chess recording. For their set-closer, they are joined by special guest Pete Seeger, who plays banjo on "Stewball," an old folk tune that actually has British or Irish origins. Dixon never did get his bass in proper intonation through the entire set, but the spirit was certainly there on that Newport stage.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee on September 3, 1915, Peter Chatman (aka Memphis Slim) was the composer of the blues classic "Every Day I Have the Blues," which he penned in 1947. (That tune was subsequently covered by everyone from Lowell Fulson and B.B. King to Elmore James, Ray Charles, Joe Williams, Lou Rawls, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Natalie Cole, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, and John Mayer.) Slim made over 500 recordings in his lengthy career, beginning with his first recorded sessions -- "Beer Drinking Woman" and "Grinder Man Blues," cut in 1940 for the Bluebird label -- and continuing through his last 25 years of life in Paris, where he lived as an expatriate blues icon before dying at age 72 on February 24, 1988. During his career, he reached the top of the charts with 1949's "Messin' Around," 1950's "Mother Earth," and 1959's "Slim's Blues." He first appeared outside the United States in 1960, when he toured with Willie Dixon as part of the American Folk Festival concerts held throughout the United Kingdom. The two released several albums together on Folkways Records, including 1962's Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon at the Village Gate with Pete Seeger.
In 1989, Slim was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. (Milkowski)