Magic Slim leading his band, the Teardrops, in 2007 His death was announced by Blind Pig Records, the label for which he had recorded since 1990. No cause was given, but he was known to have been dealing with a variety of health problems and had been hospitalized a few weeks ago while on tour.
Magic Slim was one of the last in a long line of musicians who grew up in the Deep South and then moved to Chicago, where the blues evolved in the years after World War II from a folk music played primarily on acoustic guitars to a loud, raucous, distinctly urban music, played on electric instruments by the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, that was a precursor of rock ’n’ roll.
He was known not just for his musicianship but also for the intensity of his live performances. The music magazine No Depression once described his music as “the in-your-face variety” of blues, noting, “Magic Slim doesn’t just play the blues, he body slams his audiences with a vicious guitar attack that pins them to the floor.”
His mentor was Sam Maghett, known professionally asMagic Sam, a Chicago blues star in the 1960s, whom he knew as a child in Mississippi and who offered early encouragement and instruction. “Magic Sam told me don’t try to play like him, don’t try to play like nobody,” he once recalled. “Get a sound of your own.”
It was also Magic Sam who gave a teenager named Morris Holt the stage name Magic Slim when the two performed together in Chicago in the 1950s.
Morris Holt was born in Torrance, Miss., on Aug. 7, 1937, and began playing the guitar as a child. He made his first trip to Chicago in 1955 but was unable to gain a foothold in the competitive local blues scene and returned to Mississippi, where he spent the next several years honing his craft.
Back in Chicago in the 1960s, he began developing a following and formed a group, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, that eventually became the house band at a local nightclub, Florence’s. They went on to tour and record regularly, headlining blues festivals all over the world, and to win numerous awards, including the 2003 Blues Music Award as band of the year.
Magic Slim lived in Lincoln, Neb. Survivors include his wife, Ann; seven children; and four stepchildren. His son Shawn had recently joined his band.
Magic Slim and the Teardrops’ last album, “Bad Boy,” was released in 2012.