Sunday, May 30, 2010

R.I.P. Slim Bryant, 1908 - 2010.

I had contemplated about starting a blog for months now, but it took the death of someone deeply rooted in the past to push me into the future.

I learned this morning that Thomas Hoyt "Slim" Bryant passed away this past Friday, May 28, in Pittsburgh at the age of 101. Slim was a country musician who was the last known living person to have recorded with Jimmie Rodgers (Rodgers also recorded Slim's song "Mother, The Queen of My Heart," about a gambler who has a turn of heart when his dead mother appears as the queen in his winning poker hand); if memory serves, I believe Slim also replaced Gid Tanner in the legendary Skillet Lickers, one of the first (and most popular) country bands in history.

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Slim a few years back when he was 94 (still living alone, sharp as a tack, and keeping up with good friends like Les Paul). A mutual friend accompanied me who brought a portable record player and at one point we put on an old 78 that Slim had played on. I watched him closely as the record played. He sat up straight and listened, his eyes looking straight ahead as though they were looking into another time.

When the song ended, I heard Slim say quietly to himself, "The old days."

Although I only ever met him that one time, Slim was one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. In a singular way, he brought together three things that are important to me: America, music, and history. For me, the three cannot be separated. I intend to use this blog as an exercise to further explore my thoughts on how they relate to each other (pop) culturally in the present.

In the meantime, I will think of Slim, a kind and gentle man who quietly lived an epic life that embodied the things I cherish the most.

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