Masters of Blues Harp
Slim Harpo

This is the bio note on Slim Harpo from my harmonica  transcription/instruction book Masters of Blues Harp, which has  transcription of Baby, Scratch My Back (The Best of Slim Harpo - Rhino 70169), and I Got Love If You Want It (The Best of Slim Harpo).

-Glenn Weiser

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James Moore, later known as Slim Harpo, was the most famous Louisiana harp player in the "swamp blues" tradition. Born in Lobdell in West Baton Rouge Parish in 1924, he taught himself guitar and harmonica, which he played in a neck rack, as a child. When he was in tenth grade his mother and father both died, and he had to leave school to support his family. He got work as a dockhand, and, already a good harp player, started sitting in on local gigs.

By the 1940’s he was appearing under the name Harmonica Slim, and in1948 he married and began performing full time. In the mid fifties, he started playing with Otis "Lightnin’ Slim" Hicks and soon came to the notice of producer Jay Miller of Excello Records. Miller got him to change his stage name to Slim Harpo and to sing in a somewhat nasal fashion rather than his previous, more natural, style. By now, Harpo had developed a sound modeled on Jimmy Reed’s successful approach-spare but tasty harp licks with and low-key vocals over a laid-back accompaniment.

His 1957 single "King Bee" was a hit for Excello. In 1961, his "Raining in my Heart" was even bigger, scoring not only on the R&B charts but reaching number 34 on the pop charts also. "Scratch My Back," released in 1966, reached the R&B number one slot.

After the Rolling Stones recorded "King Bee" on their 1964 debut album, Harpo began to play for white rock audiences. He started to record with psychedelic overtones in the mix, and was playing the Electric Circus and the Fillmore East by 1969. A European tour was planned, and commercial success perhaps around the corner, when he died of a heart attack in early 1970.

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