THE ROCKET 88s
1019 E. Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ, 85014
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM
This event is 21 and over
Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans has built a remarkable reputation with his raw, impassioned intensity. HARP Magazine wrote "From sizzling slide guitar...to nitty-gritty harp blowing...to a gruff, resonating Okie twang, Slim delivers acutely personal workingman blues with both hands on the wheel of life, a bottle of hooch in his pocket, and the Bible on the passenger seat." Paste Magazine writes "He's one hell of a bottleneck guitarist, and he's got that cry in his voice that only the greatest singers in the genre have had before him."
The industry agrees on all fronts. Watermelon Slim and his crack touring band The Workers have garnered 17 Blues Music Award nominations in four years including a record-tying six in both 2007 & 2008. Only the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray have landed six in a year, and Slim is the only blues artist in history with twelve in two consecutive years. In Spring 2009 he was the cover story of Blues Revue magazine.
Two of Slim's records were ranked #1 in England's MOJO Magazine's annual Top Blues CD rankings. Industry awards include The Independent Music Award for Blues Album of the Year, The Blues Critic Award and Canada's Maple Blues Award for International Artist of the Year for 2007. Slim has hit #1 on the Living Blues Charts, top five on the Roots Music Report and debuted in the top ten in Billboard. One of Slim's most impressive industry accolades may be the liner notes of The Wheel Man eagerly written by the late legendary Jerry Wexler who called him a "one-of-a-kind pickin' n singing Okie dynamo."
Slim has been embraced for his music, performances, backstory and persona. He has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered, The BBC's World Service and has been featured in publications like Harp, Relix, Paste, MOJO, Oklahoma Magazine and Truckers News as well as newspapers like The London Times, Toronto Star, Chicago Sun-Times, The Village Voice, Kansas City Star, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Michelle Shocked's JAMS Magazine.
The Memphis Flyer led its terrific CD review with the question "Does anyone in modern pop music have a more intriguing biography than Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans?"
Slim was born in Boston in 1949. His late father was an iconic Boston attorney who defended in the first case of a doctor being tried for performing an abortion after Roe v. Wade. His late brother Peter was a world-famous classical composer whose works are regularly played at Carnegie Hall. "Pete is much more big-time than I am," Slim says admiringly.
He was raised in North Carolina. He says he first heard the blues at the age of 5, listening to his mother's housekeeper sing John Lee Hooker songs while taking care of him and his brother.
Slim failed to stick in his first try at college, dropped out, enlisted in the US Army and volunteered for Vietnam duty. While laid up in a Cam Ranh Bay hospital bed he taught himself upside-down left-handed slide guitar on a $5 balsawood model, first using a quarter, and then a triangle pick cut from a plastic coffee can top, with his Zippo lighter as the slide.
Slim first appeared on the music scene with the release of one of only a handful of LPs produced by Vietnam veterans during the War. The project was Merry Airbrakes, a 1973 protest tinged LP. Country Joe McDonald later included a track from that record in one of his anthologies of music by veterans. In the 40-plus years since his war service Slim has been a truck driver, forklift operator, sawmiller (where he lost the top of a finger), firewood salesman, collection agent, funeral officiator, newspaper reporter, and dabbled with organized crime.
By 30, he was a veteran antiwar and antinuclear activist. From an interesting but precarious life in Boston, Slim migrated to Oklahoma, where he spent several years learning farming, including watermelons - hence his stage name. Somewhere in the decades since Vietnam Slim also found time to complete bachelor's and master's degrees, started a family (his only child, daughter Jessie, is 21 now), learned to paint in oil on canvas-- he is available for commissions, he says-- and joined (and left) Mensa, the social networking group reserved for members with certified genius IQs.
When he's not on tour Slim loves to fish. Various injuries have forced him to retire from his favorite sport for 56 years, bowling, in which he was a 190s shooter ("a successful small-time hustler," he says) with a high game of 299, and for two years was captain of the University of Oregon bowling team.
A big turning point in his life came in 2002, two weeks after the release of his first critically acclaimed CD, Big Shoes to Fill, when Slim suffered a near fatal heart attack. This latest brush with death gave him a new perspective on mortality, direction and life ambitions and thus his second emergence as a performing musician.
Eight albums later he says, "Everything I do now has a sharper pleasure to it. I've lived a fuller life than most people could in two. If I go now, I've got a good education, I've lived on three continents, and I've played music with a bunch of immortal blues players. I've fought in a war and against a war. I've seen an awful lot and I've done an awful lot. If my plane went down tomorrow, I'd go out on top." And when you watch him perform, you know every word is true.
Five and a half years ago Slim moved again, to what is generally considered Ground Zero of the blues, Clarksdale, Mississippi, once the home of Howlin' Wolf and of his greatest hero in life, John Lee Hooker. "The older I get, the further south I move. I always tolerated cold weather well, but I never enjoyed it much," he chuckles.
His latest release, Bull Goose Rooster, is the biggest, musically broadest album he has yet recorded, including blues, rock, jazz, a cappella gospel, the truck-driving country music that has become one of his calling cards (Slim recorded two superb Nashville C+W CDs in 2009 and 2010), folk, and even a riveting a cappella version of the unofficial Canadian national anthem, Northwest Passage, by the immortal Stan Rogers.
Slim, who is bilingual in French ("J'aime le Canada tout entier," he grins), has toured extensively in Canada, playing in every province adjoining the States. In 2013, Slim toured in New Zealand and Australia, and for 2015 he eagerly looks forward to returning to Italy and Switzerland again for a festival tour,and returning to Canada, including a 4-gig minitour in Nova Scotia with his long-time friend, award-winning bluesman Big Dave McLean and Nova Scotian Joe Murphy.
THE ROCKET 88s
The Rocket 88s have been a solid fixture in the Arizona music scene since the mid 1970s and in the national blues scene...
The Rocket 88s cd "AZ Bootin" with legendary sax player Big Jay McNeely was a 1988 Grammy Award Nominee for best traditional blues recording.
The Rocket 88s are well seasons professional blues musicians touring most of the USA through the years and exciting European audiences. Bill Tarsha, playing harmonica since the mid 60s, is a nationally known world class player winning top harmonica acclaim since the early 1970s.
$10.00 - $12.00