James “Guitar Slim” Stephens was born on March 10, 1915, near Spartanburg, South Carolina. He began to play the pump organ at the age of 5, and two years later he switched to piano. Slim was so small that his feet would not even reach the organ pedals, so he has one of his brothers do the pumping while he practiced the keys. In his early teens he joined the John Henry Davis Medicine Show. He soon picked up the guitar an instrument, which he truly mastered. It was his welcoming spirit that opened the doors of the Carolina blues, a world rarely seen by an outsider to Tim Duffy.
How We Helped:
Guitar Slim introduced Music Maker founder Tim Duffy to Guitar Gabriel, who inspired the creation of Music Maker Relief Foundation. Music Maker helped Slim record an unissued record, and featured him in the 2004 book Music Makers: Portraits and Songs from the Roots of America.
Slim told Axel Kustner when he visited his home what the blues was all about. “Blues will be popular as long as the world stands. It’ll take away any other musician you may come up with. Them Ol’ Blues is just a natural born killer and they always have been, cause they come from slavery on up, you understand?”
James “Guitar Slim” Stephens passed away in 1989.