California-native Lynwood Slim wanted to make a living either shooting pool or playing the harmonica. One cloudy day at a bus stop in Los Angeles, the 17 year old took his harmonica out of his pocket and had an epiphany. The clouds parted and a beam of light shown down illuminating the instrument. It was then that Slim realized what he held in his hand was what he wanted to do. Slim’s heart was in music and so his journey began.
Born in Los Angeles in 1953, Richard Duran – better know to the music world as Lynwood Slim – started playing the trumpet at the age of twelve. A few years later a friend gave him his first harmonica and he quickly graduated from “On Top of Old Smokey” to embracing the sounds of the blues masters of the instrument – Jimmy Reed, Little Walter and Big Walter Horton. Eventually Slim formed a band in Los Angeles and played the scene for several years.
At the time, Slim was also working at his grandfather’s gas station in LA. When payday arrived he would cash his check and head straight for Pasadena, home of J & F Record Sales, where he would promptly spend his hard earned money on vinyl. The owner of the store was a bit of a blues musicologist and he and Slim became friends. One day he informed Slim that Kim Wilson, who had been living and playing in California at the time, had just relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota. He proceeded to inform him that the Twin Cities had a burgeoning blues scene, the bars were full and folks were jumpin’! Since the gigs in Southern California had all but dried-up and there was no work to be had in Los Angeles, Slim packed it up and moved to Minneapolis in 1977.
When Lynwood Slim hit town, the blues music scene was truly exploding and the West Bank in Minneapolis was its epicenter. From the late 1970s thru the mid-1980s, this riverside neighborhood was a hotbed of blues clubs including the Cabooze, Tempo, Triangle and the Viking Bar. The music scene was vibrant overall; musicians were actually making a living doing what they loved to do. On any given night you could hear Lamont Cranston, Mojo Buford, Willie & The Bees or Aces, Straights & Shuffles, just to name a few!
By the time Slim arrived in the Twin Cities, Kim Wilson – who was fronting Aces, Straights & Shuffles – was already packing his bags for Austin, Texas where he went on to form the Fabulous Thunderbirds with Jimmie Vaughan. So less than a week after landing in Minneapolis Slim replaced Wilson as the harmonica player and vocalist in the group, which also featured Bob Bingham on guitar and Kent Duchaine on bass. From there he fronted the Fabulous Minnesota Barking Ducks for a year before forming the Lynwood Slim Band. With his own group Slim worked with veteran blues masters such as Leonard “Baby Doo” Caston and harmonica great Big Walter Horton. His unique style of swing combined with a cool blues meets jazz approach won him numerous awards from the Minnesota Music Academy. Slim also spent time in the studio where he recorded “Lost in America” and “Soul Feet” as well as behind the soundboard as the audio engineer at the Cabooze on the West Bank.
By the late 1980s, Lynwood Slim was looking for a change. Tired of the long, cold winters and armed with a desire to take his musical career to the next level, he sold his house, vintage cars and all of his furniture. He left for Amsterdam with his amplifier and harmonicas, determined to make a go of it. A stranger in a strange land with an all but non-existent blues music scene, Slim found himself heading back to the US. After an abbreviated stint in Chicago, he returned to Los Angeles and went to work networking and establishing European connections. Soon Slim found himself back across the pond, touring throughout Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. From there he headed south and played in Germany, Belgium and Austria – Italy, Spain and Czechoslovakia were soon to follow. Slim even headed down under, playing extensively all through Australia.
Slim returned to live in Twin Cities briefly in the early ‘90s. He ran sound at the Whiskey Junction in Minneapolis, worked at an electronics store and traveled back and forth to Chicago working with guitarist Dave Specter.
Before long Slim found himself, once again, heading back to Los Angeles. The blues scene was experiencing resurgence and soon he was partnering up with a who’s-who of West Coast blues players including Junior Watson, Kid Ramos, Larry Taylor and Richard Innes. Since his return to Southern California, Slim has recorded a number of solo CDs as well as being featured as guest performer on more than forty releases. He has also taken on the role of producer, engineer, arranger and songwriter in his spare time.
When the phone rang out of the blue a few years ago, Slim was skeptical. Igor Prado, a young Brazilian guitarist was a fan of the Lynwood Slim sound and wanted him to produce his next release. Slim had never heard of Igor Prado but was willing to give him a listen – Prado promptly sent some music his way and Slim was mildly impressed. Arrangements were made and soon Slim found himself in Sao Paulo and what he heard there blew him away! The Igor Prado Band’s authentic jump blues sound knocked Slim out and he soon found himself working with the group and touring South America. They eventually went into the studio where Slim oversaw the production of the band’s release “Brazilian Kicks.”
Lynwood Slim has landed himself international acclaim as a performer and producer. He has endeared himself to audiences around the world as one of the finest blues vocalists of his generation….his mastery of the harmonica is second to none. His subtleties of tone and phrasing have made Lynwood Slim one of the distinctive voices in contemporary blues.