Travelin' Man

Watermelon Slim drives a big rig of blues

As it turns out, Slim has also worked in a sawmill. "I've got about nine and three-quarters fingers," he quips. "I got a little too close to the main saw one time."

Although one could certainly consider him a late-starter, Slim sees his career differently. "At this point," he muses, "I've made a discography. I've 'made my bones' in this business — to use an old Mafia term." Slim has life experience with organized crime too, but you can hear all about it on The Wheel Man. "If I was told 'Well, your hand just isn't going to work anymore,' I'd still be going out on top. As far as I'm concerned, I'm on top right now."

And there are always other genres to cover. Though he acknowledges being a "limited musician" and says "if I can't play it on the harp or the guitar, then I probably can't play it," apparently he doesn't see any reason to abide by those limitations. He would like to give "full orchestral arrangements" to a handful of his songs.

"And when that gator opened those huge jaws of his... "
"And when that gator opened those huge jaws of his... "

Details

Sunday, January 14, to Sunday, January 21, on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. The cruise is sold out, though for last-minute cancellations, call 888-BLUESIN or visit www.bluescruise.com.
Terminal 26 at Port Everglades, 1850 Eller Dr., Fort Lauderdale

But it is one genre in particular Slim gets most animated discussing.

"I will," he says emphatically, "at some point in the next couple of years record the next great shit-kicking, country 'n' Western truck-stop album. And I will do it in memory of the greatest exponent of truck-driving music in American musical history, the late Dave Dudley."

A trucker for most of his life (he says that most people don't realize the depth of the "aloneness" that comes with the job), Slim's many trucking references in his songs make this future direction seem like a matter of course.

To give us a bit of a taste, though, he starts to sing over the phone in his beaten-up gravelly baritone: "Well, I rolled out of Pittsburgh/Rollin' down that eastern seaboard."

That's what being a Wheel Man's all about — and no goddamned war's gonna keep him from truckin'.

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