Content Curated By Darin R. McClure & a few photos

HARMONICA SLIM “Complete Harmonica Slim” (Travis Blaylock)
June 20, 2012, 6:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

HARMONICA SLIM “Complete Harmonica Slim” (Travis Blaylock): Now well forgotten, Travis Blaylock however experienced during the 1950s some commercial success under the name Harmonica Slim, which even earned him to be the only Harmonica Slim on the market, forcing James Moore to abandon his Harmonica Slim nickname for Slim Harpo and Richard Riggins (who would make several very good disks for Fedora under this nickname later on) keeps his true surname. Travis Leonard Blaylock was born December 21, 1934 in Douglassville, a village of the Texas-Arkansas border, a border that his parents crossed a few years later to settle in the largest city of Texarkana. It was around the age of twelve that Travis Blaylock began playing the harmonica under the influence of several neighbors and the records of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson. He sang and played with a local gospel group, the Sunny South Gospel Singers. He was a close friend with guitarist Martin Fulson (brother of Lowell) and they soon formed a small group who hosted a weekly radio show on station KCMC of Texarkana. In 1949, Travis moved to Los Angeles and integrated very quickly the important and very perennial scene of blues and R & B of that time, even becoming a part time member of the band of Lowell Fulson who included pianist Lloyd Glenn at that time. He recorded as a harmonica player with several West Coast sessions prior to founding, under the name Harmonica Slim, a small blues band which often included superb piano playing by Lloyd Glenn. During the 50’s, Slim recorded a dozen titles between 1954 and 1960 that happily mixed Texas Country blues with arrangements much more sophisticated in the mould of the current R & B California sounds. “Mary Helen” and especially “You better believe it” (entering the Top 100 R & B) were small hits that allowed Harmonica Slim to be part of the great R & B tours crisscrossing the United States, in the company of Lowell Fulson, Percy Mayfield, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King. But the 1960s were lean years to Slim who had to take a job in the factory to make a living. At the end of the decade, T-Bone Walker brought Slim to producer Bob Thiele, who agreed to record a whole album for his label Bluestime in the company of jazz and R & B musicians like saxophonist Plas Johnson. Curiously enough, Thiele , (who recorded several times George Smith) found the style of Harmonica Slim too rural and “primitive” and decided to replace his blowing parts by those of Smith a much more urban and jazzy harpman that Slim. This album, quite unknown to most, and very rare to these days, has many qualities. After the death of his father in 1971, Harmonica Slim returned to care for his mother at Texarkana. He worked in a gas station while playing regularly with the local band of guitarist Nelson Carson. He recorded with them for Louis Guida in 1975-76, unfortunately those sessions remained unpublished. After the death of his mother, Harmonica Slim gave up the blues for good and was reborn Travis Blaylock, turned definitively to the gospel and the religion. He even become a Reverend of the local Baptist Church until he died on June 16, 1984 in Texarkana. The compilation that I propose today brings together his complete recorded works with the exception of two titles (“Buddah” and “You”) that I have not been able to get. As always, if anyone has them, a copy would be welcome and would allow the “complete recordings” be more… complete! – Gérard HERZHAFT Author of “Encyclopedia of the blues” (Arkansas Press)

01 Thought I didn’t love you ’54 02 Going back home ’54 03 Mary Helen ’56 04 Lonely hours ’56 05 My girl won’t quit me ’56 06 You better believe it ’56 07 Drop anchor ’56 08 Do what you want to do ’56 09 I’ll take love ’60 10 Hard times ’60 11 Stormy monday blues ’69 12 Harmonica boogaloo ’69 13 Tin Pan alley ’69 14 Love ’69 15 That’s all right ’69 16 You better believe it ’69 17 Things ain’t what they used to be ’69 18 Darling I love you ’69
…served by Gyro1966…


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