Born as James Moore on January 11, 1924, Slim Harpo was the eldest child of an orphaned family in Lobdell in Louisiana. Slim Harpo was is remembered for being one of the leading promoters of the rural blues in the post-war period. James was a self-taught harmonica player who dropped out of school in the 10th grade following the death of both his parents.
Initially, James Moore, popularly known as Slim Harpo, engaged in manual labor to support his family. Soon, he started undertaking musical assignments and began to appear in concerts and musical programs since 1940 under the pseudo name ‘Harmonica Slim’. However, since the name was already being used by another musician of his time, James Moore soon adopted the pseudo name ‘Slim Harpo’.
Slim Harpo married in 1948 and took to music as a full time occupation. Initially, during the 1950s he traveled all over southern Louisiana and played for small picnics, parties, beer pubs as well as local clubs. And soon, James Moore associated with his brother-in-law Lightnin’ Slim in the mid-1950s for a succession of recordings at J. D. Miller’s studio in Crowley. As Ligntnin Slim substitute James with Lazy Lesters in 1957, Slim Harpo went back to the studio to record ‘I’m a King Bee’ that was released by Excello label under the name of ‘Slim Harpo’.
While ‘I’m a King Bee’ was modestly successful, Silm Harpo followed this up with ‘Raining in My Heart, a ballad that secured top positions in pop charts and was one of the biggest hits of the time. Unfortunately, the next two albums of Slim Harpo were super flops at the box office and he eventually switched over from Excello to Imperial Records. During his association with the Imperial Records in New Orleans, Slim Harpo recorded a number of songs. Regrettably, none those were released and Miller once again succeeded in luring back the musician to his Excello label.
Together, they recorded an innovative song ‘Scratch my Back’ and it went on to become Slim Harpo’s biggest hit music ever. This song brought so much fame to Slim Harpo that he performed several concerts in Chicago along with Sightnin’ Slim in 1967, and in Whiskey a Go-Go in Los Angeles in 1968. He also played at the Apollo Theater in 1969 and the Fillmore East and Electric Circus in 1970. Slim Harpo released his last record ‘Tip on It’ with Excello soon after the success of ‘Scratch my Back’.
Slim Harpo’s other albums included ‘The Best of Slim Harpo’, ‘Slim Harpo Knew the Blues’ and ‘Blues Hangover’. While the first two albums were released under the Excello label, the last one was under the Flyright. Slim Harpo’s warm, relaxed voice improved the sexual allegory of ‘I’m a King Bee’ that was later recorded by the Rolling Stones, who also recorded the vivacious ‘Shake Your Hips’ that Slim Harpo first recorded way back in 1966. Apart from the Rolling Stones, Harpo’s music has been performed by other musicians and bands, including George Throughgood, ‘The Destroyers’, ‘The Fabulous Thunderbirds’, ‘Anson Funderburg’ and the ‘Rockets’ among others.
Unfortunately, James Moore or Slim Harpo fell seriously ill in 1970 and succumbed to a heart attack at the Baton Rouge General Hospital on January 31, 1970.
Songs from the album: The Best of Slim Harpo - 1989
- I'm A King Bee
- I've Got Love If You Want It
- Wonderin' And Worryin'
- You'll Be Sorry One Day
- Strange Love
- Bobby Sox Baby
- One More Day
- Rainin' In My Heart
- Blues Hangover
- Still Rainin' In My Heart
- Snoopin' Around
- Te Ni Nee Ni Nu
- Tip On In, Part 1
- Shake Your Hips
- Baby, Scratch My Back