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Otis Hicks, known as Lightnin’ Slim, was born on March 13, 1913. He was an American blues musician who played in a style similar to other Louisiana artists. He has been considered as one of the five great bluesmen of the 1950s, along with Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson.

As is the case with the blues musicians of this era, it is unclear of his birthplace. Some believe he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but according to his draft card he was born in Pine Top, Louisiana. Hicks moved to Baton Rouge and learned to play the guitar from his brother Layfield.

By 1954 Hicks began recording. His first was “Bad Luck Blues”, released by J. D. “Jay” Miller’s Feature Records. Miller is claimed to have given Hicks the name “Lightnin’ Slim”.

Leaving Feature records for a deal with Excello, Slim spent the next twelve years recording with them. He often collaborated with his brother-in-law Slim Harpo and the harmonica player Lazy Lester.

Slim got tired of being on the road and settled in to work in a foundry in Pontiac, Michigan. In 1970,  he was rediscovered by blues historian Fred Reif where he was living in a rented room owned by Slim Harpo’s sister. Reif had also become a booking agent for Lazy Lester, and was able to get a new recording contract with Excello records. His first concert back in the spotlight was in 1971 at the University of Chicago’s Folk Festival in 1971.

In July 1974, Slim died of stomach cancer in Detroit, Michigan, aged 61.

born with the blues

Born With the Blues is a weekly Series covering an influential blues artist born on this date. Graphic by Don Hill



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