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Slim Harpo

Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge

foreword by John Broven

416 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 37 halftones, 1 map

Music | Regional Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807164532 / September 2016

As Louis Armstrong forever tethered jazz to New Orleans and Clifton Chenier fixed Lafayette as home to zydeco, Slim Harpo established Baton Rouge as a base for the blues. In the only complete biography of this internationally renowned blues singer and musician, Martin Hawkins traces Harpo’s rural upbringing near Louisiana’s capital, his professional development fostered by the local music scene, and his national success with R&B hits like Rainin’ in My Heart, Baby Scratch My Back, and I’m A King Bee, among others. Hawkins follows Harpo’s global musical impact from the early 1960s to today and offers a detailed look at the nature of the independent recording business that enabled his remarkable legacy.

With new research and interviews, Hawkins fills in previous biographical gaps and redresses misinformation about Harpo’s life. In addition to weaving the musician’s career into the lives of other Louisiana blues players—including Lightnin’ Slim, Lazy Lester, and Silas Hogan—the author discusses the pioneering role of Crowley, Louisiana, record producer J. D. Miller and illustrates how Excello Records in Nashville brought national attention to Harpo’s music recorded in Louisiana.

This engaging narrative examines Harpo’s various recording sessions and provides a detailed discography, as well as a list of blues-related records by fellow Baton Rouge artists. Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge will stand as the ultimate resource on the musician’s life and the rich history of Baton Rouge’s blues heritage. 

1. Something inside Me
2. Swamp Records and Radio Sales
3. I’m a King Bee
4. Rainin’ in My Heart
5. Buzzin’, Scratchin’, Hip Shakin’, Bread Makin’
6. The Music’s Hot
7. Goodbye, Slim Harpo
8. The Heritage Blues

MARTIN HAWKINS, author of A Shot in the Dark: Making Records in Nashville, 1945–1955 and, with Colin Escott, Good Rockin’ Tonight: Sun Records and the Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll, has written over four hundred magazine articles, LP sleeve notes, and CD booklets on roots music since 1971.

Praise for Slim Harpo

“Hawkins applies a scholar’s detail and a fan’s affection to his exhaustively researched Harpo history. Working from the fragmentary information that exists about the late Baton Rouge musician, Hawkins tells Harpo’s story while simultaneously describing the hard world from which he came. . . . His thoroughly researched, painstakingly written and richly illustrated Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge instantly joins the relatively small list of essential books about post-1950 Louisiana musicians.”—Offbeat

“Hawkins’ well-researched book (complete with some fascinating vintage photographs) traces the Pelican state-based bluesman’s decidedly rural raising, his musical development—encouraged by the thriving (and still thriving) local blues scene and his national success. . . . A drastically overlooked, never-before-told saga of a little-known corner of the blues and R&B that yours truly found quite engaging.”—Big City Blues

Extras for Slim Harpo

WATCH: "Slim Harpo" author Martin Hawkins sees the sights of America on his book tour.

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