top of page

Slim Harpo - (James Issac Moore)

Slim was an American blues musician, a leading exponent of the swamp blues style, and "one of the most commercially successful blues artists of his day."  Early in his career, he performed under the pseudonym of "Harmonica Slim" at local nightclubs and bars.  In the mid-1950s, HE began recording and released, in 1957, his first record as Slim Harpo.   HE ONLY  HAD 13 YEARS OF CAREER RECORDING TIME.


He played guitar and was a master of the blues harmonica, known in blues circles as a "harp". His most successful and influential recordings included "I'm a King Bee" (1957), "Rainin' in My Heart" (1961), and "Baby Scratch My Back" (1966), which reached number one on Billboard's R&B chart and number 16 on its broader Hot 100 singles chart.

Never a full-time musician, Harpo owned a trucking business during the 1960s.  , "Harpo and his band needed to tour constantly and play as much as possible; times were frequently lean financially, and the men had to scrape up whatever they could get." 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. British Merseybeat/R&B group The Moody Blues reportedly took their name from an instrumental track of Slim's called "Moody Blues". 


Critic Cub Koda wrote of his appeal:

Harpo was more adaptable than the early [Jimmy] 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 ... 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 ... By the time his first single became a Southern jukebox favorite, his songs were being adapted and played by white musicians left and right. His material was good-time Saturday-night blues that could be sung by elements of the Caucasian persuasion with a straight face.

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.

Slim had over 30 singles, 16 albums, 22 compilation albums, and has over 723 documented music credits to his name.  “He’s not in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame,” but. “He was recognized by the Grammy organization for only one song (1957’s ‘I’m a King Bee’).  In the short period of time that he was in the music business, he became an accomplished artist.”

bottom of page