By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
Stoner comics Cheech and Chong may have poked fun at "Blind Lemon Chitlin" back in the day, but the fact is that decades before hip-hoppers began assuming eccentrically spelled stage sobriquets, bluesmen realized that adopting badass monikers could go a long way toward conveying a certain street cred missing from their birth names. McKinley Morganfield could have been the senior partner in an upper-crust law firm, Chester Burnett an old-time movie cowboy and Walter Jacobs a high school science teacher -- but as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter, they defined the Chicago blues sound of the '50s and '60s.
Similarly, consider guitarist/vocalist Morris Holt. Morris is a fine name for an accountant or a guy who owns a dry-cleaning place, but for a blues musician, it lacks a certain funky joie de vivre. No big surprise, then, that to achieve success playing the blues, Holt had to become Magic Slim (not to be confused with Peter "Memphis Slim" Chatman or "Magic Sam" Maghett, Holt's childhood neighbor in Grenada, Mississippi, who years later in Chicago employed him as a bassist and gave him his nickname).
Following in the footsteps of Muddy, Wolf and Walter, Slim, now 67 years old, remains one of the most active and authentic proponents of the Windy City's style of electric blues. Unlike them, he's always been more of a journeyman than an innovator; he was thirty before he led his first group, and well into his forties before his recording career really got underway. These days he and his highly proficient band are almost a blues repertory company of sorts, as likely at any given minute to play an obscure cover or someone else's classic song as one of Slim's own compositions. But whatever Magic Slim may lack in originality, he more than makes up for with his energy, enthusiasm, skill and spontaneity.