55 minute run time
Peter Carlson, founder of Sagebrush Productions, has been deeply involved in the clean-up and disposal of nuclear waste for several decades. He also feels a responsibility to do what he can to give something back to the world that he works so hard to preserve. Through Sagebrush, he has released a number of DVDs on blues musicians as well as another series that focuses on the Native American culture. Productions on Pinetop Perkins, Bobby Rush, and Son Seals have garnered critical acclaim in addition to Grammy and Blues Music Award nominations.
The latest documentary offers a closer look at Morris “Magic Slim” Holt, who passed away a year ago.Slim and his band, the Teardrops, were known for their driving sound that was steeped in the Chicago electric blues tradition. The DVD features short interview clips of Magic Slim reminiscing about growing up, working a cotton gin, and going to church with his mother every Sunday. He would always try to sit near the piano so he could learn from the woman who played for the church service. She began to teach Slim the basics of playing the piano and he was hooked. But an accident with saw blade, that he describes in detail, cost him the little finger on his right hand, thereby curtailing his future as a piano player.
But Slim had fallen under the spell of music, so like many others before him, he fashioned a guitar out of a piece of wood, a soda bottle and the wire from his brother’s broom. With encouragement from his father, he worked hard and was rewarded with a Stella acoustic guitar at Christmas. Soon he was learning from his friend Samuel“Magic Sam” Maghett, the two future blues legends sitting under a tree playing for each others sister. Slim headed to Chicago at age eighteen, where he quickly started soaking up all of the great blues music going on in the city. Unable to gain entrance in to most clubs due to his age, he eventually went back home to improve his guitar skills. He also began to teach his broth Douglas “Lee Baby” Holt how to play the drums and gave brother Nick instruction on playing the bass guitar.
From there, Slim relates stories about his return to Chicago, getting a regular weekly gig at Florence’s blues club, and how he managed to pick the guitar without any feeling in the tip of his index finger, due to the saw accident. Interspersed with Slim’s clips are comments from his sister, Lucinda Holt Brown plus brief remarks from Koko Taylor, Dr. John and Steven Seagal. Lonnie Brooks comments that Slim’s playing was real strong and raggedy, that you could feel the vibrations from his guitar. Another poignant clip finds Slim’s road manager, the late Michael Blakemore, stating that his uncle, Junior Wells, and Slim could be a pain in the ass at times but they played the blues the way it was meant to be played. There are also segments with Marty Salzman, Slim’s manager, who describes arranging tours for Slim that reached all parts of the globe, including one memorable tour in Brazil where Slim and the Teardrops held their own with the better-known artists on the tour.
Samples of Slim’s music play in the background for parts of the disc. Also included are four videos of live performances from various stages of Slim’s career. One captures him playing harp on the Brazil tour while another the 2001 Chicago Blues Fest finds him playing and singing unaccompanied. The final video shows the band’s fiery performance at the 24th W.C. Handy Awards show, just after Slim received the award for Blues Band of the Year from Little Milton and Toni Lynn Washington.
In his final quote, Magic Slim states that he hopes to be remembered as a bluesman. He certainly was all that and much more. Kudos to Sagebrush for making this project available. It is a must-have for any of Magic Slim’s fans – or any fan of real blues music.