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A Look at Slick Ballinger

The first time I saw Slick perform was at the Simply the Blues Festival 2005. What came to mind when I approached the stage was, "who is this young fella, in his pajamas, toting a Gibson as big as himself?" Then he proceeded to jump off the stage, making his way through the crowd with moves The King would be envious of.

After the festival, back at the host hotel, I attended the after-jam. Slick and John Richardson (Blue Mercy) had some serious axe grinding to do.

Slick at Simply the Blues FestivalA few months later, I had a chance to see Slick headlining at Theodore’s Blues and BBQ in Springfield, MA. I was not sure what type of blues he performed. Meaning, it didn’t seem to be Delta or Chicago style. As if he read my mind, he announced that it was called Junkhouse blues.

During the break at Theodore’s, I purchased his CD, Mississippi Soul, and got him to sign a few pictures I took at the festival earlier in the year. He seemed blown away when I produced the photos for autographs. “Ma’am, I would sure like me to have a few of these pictures,” he said to me. I asked him for his email and he said that he didn’t have a “puter”. So, he gave me his mailing address and I sent him some nice 8×10’s and a disc of all the shots that I have taken. When I saw him on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise this past January, I asked him if he got the photos and the disc that I sent. He was playing an acoustic number down in the merchandise room; he stopped playing, and gave a brilliant smile. He thanked me about ten times.

Slick & Blind Mississippi MorrisThis youngster, now 22, is a native in North Carolina but now makes his home in Mississippi. Fife legend, Othar Turner took him under his wing to teach him the meaning of blues. He was soon performing nightly in the local juke joints and liquor houses, where he learned traditional Mississippi blues.

At the age of 16, a year after he first picked up a guitar, Slick became a contender in the 2000 Triangle and the Charlotte Blues Society talent competitions, placing first runner up in both.

In 2004, “Reverend Slick and the Soul Blues Boyz” took the second place trophy at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. That same year, Slick won the Albert King award for the most promising guitarist. The Soul Blues Boyz consists of harp player, Blind Mississippi Morris, and Kinney Kimbrough (Junior Kimbrough’s son) on drums.

In a recent turn of events, it appears that he has decided to give up his blues career for gospel. In his spare time, Slick has been performing gospel in his church. So, this is not something entirely new to him. In the few times I have seen Slick perform, he seemed to have the blues; in the traditional sense of the word.

Perhaps in a few years, Slick will decide to continue where he left off, making his own style and sound in the blues community.

About Tara Clark