HEY LOCO FANS – Time to celebrate swamp blues maestro Slim Harpo who was born on this day in 1924 in Lobdell, LA!
Born James Isaac Moore, after his parents died he worked as a longshoreman and construction worker in New Orleans in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Influenced in style by Jimmy Reed, he began performing in Baton Rouge bars using the name “Harmonica Slim”, and also accompanied his brother-in-law Lightnin’ Slim in live performances.
He started his recording career in March 1957. To differentiate himself from another performer called Harmonica Slim he took his wife’s suggestion and adopted the name Slim Harpo. His first solo release, was “I’m a King Bee”, backed with “I Got Love If You Want It”. He followed up with several more singles and his first chart hit, “Rainin’ in My Heart”, in early 1961. Many of his songs were co-written with his wife, Lovelle Moore, although she never received credit.
Never a full-time musician, Harpo owned a trucking business during the 1960s. But, by 1964, several of his songs had been released on albums and singles in the UK, and British rock bands began to include versions of his songs in their early repertoires.
He recruited Lightnin’ Slim for his touring band in 1968, and toured widely in the late 1960s, mainly reaching rock audiences. With his first scheduled tour of Europe and recording sessions already planned, one of the cleanest living bluesmen of his era died suddenly of a heart attack in Baton Rouge in January 1970 aged 46.
His songs have been covered by artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Van Morrison with Them, Hank Williams, Jr., and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
Here’s an additional article I found posted on AllMusic:
In the large stable of blues talent that recorded for the Nashville-based Excello label, no one enjoyed more mainstream success than Slim Harpo. Just a shade behind Lightnin’ Slim in local popularity, Harpo played both guitar and neck-rack harmonica in a more down-home approximation of Jimmy Reed, with a few discernible, and distinctive, differences. Harpo’s music was certainly more laid-back than Reed’s, if such a notion was possible. But the rhythm was insistent and, overall, Harpo was more adaptable than Reed or most other bluesmen. His material not only made the national charts, but also proved to be quite adaptable for white artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Dave Edmunds with Love Sculpture, Van Morrison with Them, Sun rockabilly singer Warren Smith, Hank Williams, Jr., and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
A people-pleasing club entertainer, he certainly wasn’t above working rock & roll rhythms into his music, along with hard-stressed, country & western vocal inflections. Several of his best tunes were co-written with his wife Lovelle and show a fine hand for song construction, appearing to have arrived at the studio already well-formed. His harmonica playing was driving and straightforward, full of surprising melody, while his vocals were perhaps best described by writer Peter Guralnick as “if a Black country & western singer or a white rhythm & blues singer were attempting to impersonate a member of the opposite genre.” And here perhaps was Harpo’s true genius, and what has given his music a wider currency. By the time his first single became a Southern jukebox favorite, his songs were being adapted and played by white musicians left and right. Here was good-time Saturday-night blues that could be sung by white musicians with a straight face. Nothing resembling the emotional investment of a Howlin’ Wolf or a Muddy Waters was required; it all came natural and easy, and its influence has stood the test of time.
He was born James Moore just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After his parents died, he dropped out of school to work every juke joint, street corner, picnic, and house rent party that came his way. By this time he had acquired the alias of Harmonica Slim, which he used until his first record was released. It was fellow bluesman Lightnin’ Slim who first steered him to local recordman J.D. Miller. The producer used him as an accompanist to Hopkins on a half-dozen sides before recording him on his own. When it came time to release his first single (“I’m a King Bee”), Miller informed him that there was another Harmonica Slim recording on the West Coast, and a new name was needed before the record could come out. Moore’s wife took the slang word for harmonica, added an “o” to the end of it, and a new stage name was the result, one that would stay with Slim Harpo for the rest of his career.
Harpo’s first record became a double-sided R&B hit, spawning numerous follow-ups on the “King Bee” theme, but even bigger was “Rainin’ in My Heart,” which made the Billboard Top 40 pop charts in the summer of 1961. It was another perfect distillation of Harpo’s across-the-board appeal, and was immediately adapted by country, Cajun, and rock & roll musicians; anybody could play it and sound good doing it. In the wake of the Rolling Stones covering “I’m a King Bee” on their first album, Slim had the biggest hit of his career in 1966 with “Baby, Scratch My Back.” Harpo described it “as an attempt at rock & roll for me,” and its appearance in Billboard’s Top 20 pop charts prompted the dance-oriented follow-ups “Tip on In” and “Tee-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu,” both R&B charters. For the first time in his career, Harpo appeared in such far-flung locales as Los Angeles and New York City. Flush with success, he contacted Lightnin’ Slim, who was then residing outside of Detroit, Michigan. The two reunited and formed a band, touring together as a sort of blues mini-package to appreciative white rock audiences until the end of the decade. The new year beckoned with a tour of Europe (his first ever) all firmed up, and a recording session scheduled when he arrived in London. Unexplainably, Harpo — who had never been plagued with any ailments stronger than a common cold — suddenly succumbed to a heart attack on January 31, 1970.