|baby, scratch my back- got love if you want it- i'm a
Slim Harpo's sound was casual and friendly but, upon analysis was both highly
regimented in its production and reflected influences that are very different
from other Mississippi "delta" musicians such as Muddy Waters and the
Technically, one of the most significant characteristics of Slim Harpo's sound
was his innovative use of Fender amp tremolo synchronized to the groove of
the song he was recording. The first recording at this web page, "Baby
Scratch My Back", demonstrates Harpo's early use of tremolo. Another
advent in Harpo's production was use of deep, almost spooky amp reverb.
Harpo's recordings also featured a double guitar attack-with Harpo's rhythm
groove on a Gibson hollow body through deep tremolo and rhythm lines
played on a Fender solid body (often by the New Orleans guitarist Lightnin'
Slim, as on both "Baby Scratch My Back" and "I'm a King Bee"). These sonic
components were distinctive and ground breaking in 1957, the year after Elvis
Presley recorded for the first time in Sun Studios and contemporaneous with
Chuck Berry's first record hits out of Chess Records in Chicago.
Slim Harpo's music is both historic and influential and represents a truly unique New
Orleans sound. While many musicians have listened to and mined the sound that he
popularized, Slim Harpo was actually "Born on the Bayou". He was born James Moore
in Lobdell 10 miles outside of Baton Rouge, LA.
Harpo recorded in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans area and made his living
primarily by playing the local live circuit rarely venturing out of the deep south.
Although the record label Harpo's music was distributed on was independent and
regional, Harpo had several hits that charted nationally including "Raining in My Heart"
which made the Billboard chart's top 40 in 1961.
His records may not have received a wide
audience in the US, but they did reach the
shores of England where he was widely listened
to and appreciated for his individualistic electric
guitar sound and laid back vocal style.
Harpo's music not only made the national charts
in England, but served as inspiration for British
rock bands, including the Rolling Stones,
Yardbirds, Kinks, and Van Morrison recorded
his first charting single, Harpo's "Don't Start
Crying Now" with his first group the Them. Mick
Jagger was quoted asking fans in America,
"whats the point in listening to us doing "I'm a
King Bee" when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?"
Harpo also played and recorded a broad
repertoire of popular styles which likely reflected
that he was a working musician, gigging locally
throughout his career. Harpo played blues, soul
and country tinged songs which set him apart
from the Chicago style of electrified delta blues
recorded by the Chess brothers during the
1950s. Harpo's sound was influenced by New
Orleans' diverse musical heritage. Harpo's
singing style worked well for soul and blues and
was more accessible to rock acts who covered
Harpo's records in the early 1960's.
When the Rolling Stones had a hit with "I'm a
King Bee" off their first album in 1966, Harpo
recorded "Baby, Scratch My Back" that charted
on Billboard's top 20. Harpo recorded more
songs in the late 1960's following after that hit
and began to tour the coasts. Harpo's music fit
well in the live music scene of the late 60's when
electric blues was an influence on early rock and
James Moore/Slim Harpo succumbed to a heart
attack in January of 1970.
|Slim Harpo / James
Born 01.11.1924 Lobdell, LA
Died 01.31.1970 Baton Rouge, LA