Pimps and Players

Fillmore Slim has lived a life of picking, pimping, and prison -- now he just wants to play the blues

In 1987, Key put out Slim's Born to Sing the Blues album on his label, Eli's Mile High Records. In order to support the release, Slim put together a band and separated himself from "the life." Years of relentless gigging followed, with Slim finally signing a record deal with New York-based Fedora Records in 1999. The resultant CD, Other Side of the Road, came out last year. The 10 songs -- eight of them originals -- showcase Slim's electric West Coast blues style and his B.B. King-inspired guitar playing. With the addition of horns and a decidedly urbane edge, Other Side of the Road honors older artists like T-Bone Walker (with whom Slim played) as well as forging new ground in the tradition of the late Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

The release of Other Side of the Road also furthered Slim's European reputation, leading to recent slots at the Zurich Blues Festival and the Blues Estafette in Utrecht, Holland. "I love it over there," Slim says. "They really appreciate the blues in Europe and they treat me like I'm Ray Charles."

Ironically, the American interest in Slim was minimal until the release of American Pimp. "Since the movie came out, they've been calling for me," says an excited Slim, referring to the clamoring of booking agents, record labels, and members of the hip hop community. Even with the increased exposure, Slim expects he won't make a lot of money with his blues career. And he doesn't care. "The money I make now means much more to me than the money I made then," says Slim. "I'm just blessed I'm still here and I'm thankful every day I get to play my music."

Does Slim long for his former pastime? "I still do miss the game sometimes, but I'm also glad I'm still here to talk about it. These days the game is dangerous. I'm glad I'm still OG -- paid my dues and lived through the days. But now I'm doing something that society accepts me for." Besides, Slim has 15 children to provide for. "My youngest son is 7 years old," he says. "I teach them that music can be your salvation. I'm like a mentor to them now. I never had time to do music back in the day and I'm glad I have the time to do music now. I'm thankful that I can teach my children about the virtues of living a clean lifestyle."

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