LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Guitarist Magic Slim, a mainstay of the Chicago blues scene who followed in the footsteps of such greats as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, died on Thursday at age 75, his manager said.
Slim, the son of Mississippi sharecroppers, gave up the piano and turned to guitar after losing his right pinky finger in a cotton gin accident at age 13. He died at a Philadelphia hospital where he had been under treatment for various ailments, manager Marty Salzman said.
A heavy smoker who suffered from emphysema and heart problems, Slim was forced by illness to cut short a tour with his band, the Teardrops, in late January, Salzman said.
Born Morris Holt in Torrence, Mississippi, Slim grew up on a farm and made his first trip to Chicago in 1955, starting off as the bass player for a friend and mentor known as Magic Sam, who lent the younger musician his nickname.
Slim cut his first record in 1966 and became a Chicago blues fixture in his own right, developing a guitar style that blended a distinct vibrato with a slide-guitar-like sound formed with his bare fingers against the strings.
Known for playing with picks on both the thumb and index finger of his right hand - a somewhat unusual technique, according to Salzman - the guitarist was recognized as much for his powerful, gruff vocals as his musicianship.
With more than 30 albums to his credit, Slim also was known for an encyclopedic mastery of the blues, Salzman said.
“There’s probably not another bluesman who had quite the repertoire that Slim had,” he said.
While Slim lived in recent years with his family in Nebraska, “Chicago was always like home to him,” his manager said.
Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney