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He settled in Chicago in 1939 and began teaming with the guitarist and singer Big Bill Broonzy in clubs soon afterward.
In 19 he recorded two songs for Bluebird Records that became part of his repertoire for decades, "Beer Drinking Woman" Slim became a regular session musician for Bluebird, and his piano talents supported established stars such as John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Washboard Sam, and Jazz Gillum.
He started performing under the name "Memphis Slim" later that year but continued to publish songs under the name Peter Chatman.
He spent most of the 1930s performing in honky-tonks, dance halls, and gambling joints in West Memphis, Arkansas, and southeast Missouri.
Memphis Slim (September 3, 1915 – February 24, 1988) was an American blues pianist, singer, and composer.
He led a series of bands that, reflecting the popular appeal of jump blues, included saxophones, bass, drums, and piano.
He was never a Chess artist, but Leonard Chess bought most of the Premium masters after the demise of Premium.
After a year with Mercury Records, Slim signed with United Records in Chicago; the A&R man, Lew Simpkins, knew him from Miracle and Premium.
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A song he first cut in 1947, "Every Day I Have the Blues", has become a blues standard, recorded by many other artists. Memphis Slim was born John Len Chatman, in Memphis, Tennessee.
For his first recordings, for Okeh Records in 1940, he used the name of his father, Peter Chatman (who sang, played piano and guitar, and operated juke joints); it is commonly believed that he did so to honor his father.
It has become as famous as "Every Day I Have the Blues." The song was recorded in 1950 by Lowell Fulson and subsequently by numerous other artists, including B. King, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Natalie Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, Mahalia Jackson, Sarah Vaughan, Carlos Santana, John Mayer and Lou Rawls.
Early in 1950, Miracle succumbed to financial troubles, but its owners regrouped to form the Premium label, and Slim remained on board until the successor company faltered in the summer of 1951.