Lightnin' Slim (March 13, 1913 - July 27,
1974) was an American blues musician specializing in Louisiana swamp
Lightnin' Slim was born Otis V. Hicks in St. Louis, Missouri. moving
to Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of thirteen. Taught guitar by his
older brother Layfield, Slim was playing in bars in Baton Rouge by the
He debuted on J. D. "Jay" Miller's Feature Records label in 1954 with
"Bad Luck Blues" ("If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at
all"). Slim then recorded for Excello Records for twelve years, starting
in the mid 1950s, often collaborating with his brother-in-law, Slim
Harpo and with harmonica player Lazy
Slim took time off from the blues for a period of time and ended up
working in a foundry in Pontiac, Michigan, which resulted in him
suffering from constantly having his hands exposed to high temperatures.
He was re-discovered by Fred Reif in 1970, in Pontiac, where he was
living in a rented room at Slim Harpo's
sister's house. Reif soon got him back performing again and a new
recording contract with Excello, this time through Bud Howell, the
present President of the company. His first gig was a reunion concert at
the 1971 University of Chicago Folk Festival with Lazy Lester, whom Reif
had brought from Baton Rouge in January 1971.
In the 1970s, Slim performed on tours in Europe, both in the United
Kingdom and at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland where he was
often accompanied by Moses "Whispering" Smith on harmonica. He last
toured the UK in 1973, with the American Blues Legends package.
In July 1974, Slim died of stomach cancer in Detroit, Michigan aged 61.
Slim has been cited as a major influence by several contemporary blues
artists, including Captain Beefheart, who in a 1987 radio interview with
Kristine McKenna, stated that Lightnin' Slim was the only artist he
could recommend somebody listening to.