Innocent Words Blues Series: Remembering Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones: December 10, 1926 – February 7, 1959

Eddie-GuitarSlim-JonesAlthough his life was cut short, and his career even shorter, Guitar Slim put his stamp directly on music history with his signature song “The Things That I Used to Do.”

The 12-bar blues song, “The Things That I Used to do” was recorded by the New Orleans blues guitarist and released on Specialty Records in 1953. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has listed the song as one of the songs that shaped rock & roll.

Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn went on to record a version of the extremely popular song “The Things That I Used to Do.” Guitar Slim himself has been known to influence such blues and rock & roll giants as Buddy Guy, Albert Collins, and Frank Zappa.

Before Guitar Slim found short-term success with “The Things That I Used to Do” he was known as Eddie Jones. His mother died when Jones was five years old and he was raised by his grandmother. Jones spent a few years out in the cotton fields and in his off time gravitated toward music eventually spending all his free time in the juke joints where he earned his first nickname “Limber Leg” due to his proficient dancing.

Jones went on to serve in World War II and upon his return he settled in New Orleans where he went back to hanging out at the clubs. Jones was introduced to the guitar by bandleader Willie D. Warren. As Jones learned the six string he was influenced by blues luminaries T-Bone Walker and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. When he got good enough on the guitar, Jones adopted the stage name of Guitar Slim and started playing the clubs around New Orleans. Guitar Slim’s stage act quickly spread around the Crescent City as he would wear brightly colored suits and dye his hair to match them. Guitar Slim would use an extra-long guitar cable and he would come down off the stage and walk around the entire club while playing, occasionally, getting a boost up on his assistant’s shoulders and would play from there.

Though his vocals were based in gospel singing, his guitar playing was ahead of its time. He would regularly play his guitar using distortion, an effect that wouldn’t be used by musicians for another 10 years.

Guitar Slim landed his first recording session in 1951 but didn’t find success until a year later when he laid down the cut “Feeling Sad,” which would eventually be covered by Ray Charles, who would go on to produce “The Things That I Used to Do” soon after.

Guitar Slim bounced around from label to record label including Imperial, Bullet, Specialty, and Atco. He landed at Atlantic Records in 1956 where he recorded the blues rockers “It Hurts to Love Someone” and “If I Should Lose You” but they just didn’t have the same flare of his earlier recordings.

With his career quickly going down in flames, Guitar Slim put down his guitar and picked up the bottle and became an alcoholic. When he was in New York, Slim had pneumonia and it would eventually take his life on February 7, 1959. He was just 32 years old.

Sadly, there are no monuments, tribute albums or much recognition for the flamboyant guitarist. Just one song, a one-hit wonder if you will, but Guitar Slim was much more than that.