Guitarist Magic Slim, a Chicago blues great who followed in the footsteps of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, died yesterday (Feb. 21) at a hospital in Philadelphia. He was 75. Born Morris Holt in Torrance, Mississippi, Slim gave up the piano and turned to guitar at 13 after losing the pinky finger on his right hand in a farming accident. He first went to Chicago in 1955, eventually recording his first single in 1966 and his first album in 1977.
His 1990 album, Gravel Road, launched a 22-year association with Blind Pig Records, which released ten Slim albums and a live DVD during that period. Slim’s distinctive guitar style arose in part from his use of picks on both his thumb and index finger. He was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of blues material, and drew from hundreds of songs he had committed to memory. "Magic Slim embodied the heart and soul of this label,” Blind Pig Records owner Jerry Del Giudice said, in a prepared statement. “It was Magic Slim, and the guys like him, and their music, that inspired us to start the label in the first place."