By MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS
TRAVERSE CITY — A blast of Windy City blues will sweep into northern Michigan next week when Magic Slim & The Teardrops perform at the Dennos Museum Center.
The big bluesman and his band, considered by many to be the last "real" Chicago blues band, will play at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in the museum's Milliken Auditorium.
"He's probably the embodiment of pure, Delta-meets-Chicago electric blues," said Leroy Alvarez, host of WNMC Radio's "Blue Monday" show. "It's straight-ahead, no-frills, gut-bucket blues."
The six-time W.C. Handy Award-winning musician was born in 1930s Mississippi, where his parents were sharecroppers. Then known as Morris Holt, he grew up playing piano and singing in his church choir. After losing his pinky finger in a cotton gin accident, he took up guitar, and made his first instrument out of bailing wire from a broom, which he nailed to a wall.
In the 1950s he migrated to Chicago, where he was dubbed "Magic Slim" by his mentor, blues musician Magic Sam. Soon after, he began to develop his own guitar style, often marked by the sound of a slide guitar played with just his finger.
"Blues nowadays is so amped up, rocked out. He does it his way," said Alvarez, who saw the band twice in Chicago. "He can rock out without playing all those notes and cranking it up to 100."
In 1960 the musician formed Magic Slim & The Teardrops with his brother, the late bassist Nick Holt. The band has recorded nearly two dozen albums, including 2012's "Bad Boy" on Blind Pig Records.
Now 75, Magic Slim maintains a relentless touring schedule, playing everywhere from juke joints in Mississippi, to nightclubs in Chicago, to concert stages in Brazil, France and Russia.
But he's most beloved in Chicago, where he has headlined the Chicago Music Festival.
"He's very popular," said Franklin Rudder, a sales clerk at the northside Chicago blues club Kingston Mines, where the bluesman with the ever-present cowboy hat packed 'em in on New Year's Eve. "We're using him as a headliner tonight. He's a main draw."
Tickets for the band's Traverse City appearance are $25 in advance and $28 at the door, plus a $2 processing fee. To order, call 995-1553 or (800) 836-0717 or visit www.dennosmuseum.org or www.MyNorthTickets.com.