Sunnyland Slim (ALBERT LUANDREW)








With his trademark Woody Woodpecker call and his distinctive large frame, blues pianist Sunnyland Slim was an institution in Chicago. Born Albert Luandrew in 1907 in Vance, Mississippi, as a youngster he first learned to play the pump organ and then moved on to the piano. He began working the juke joints and theatres in the Mississippi Delta area in the early 1920's. He travelled around Tennessee and Arkansas for a time and eventually settled in Memphis around 1926. He became a regular on Beale Street, both as a solo act and as an accompanist, often supporting Ma Rainey and Little Brother Montgomery. In 1928, he wrote "Sunnyland Train" and earned his nickname. This harrowing song was about the train connecting Memphis and St. Louis and the unfortunate people that had crossed the tracks at the wrong time.

He remained based in Memphis until the early 1940's when he moved to Chicago where he worked with Muddy Waters. It was Sunnyland Slim who got Waters' start in the recording industry when Sunnyland introduced him to the Chess brothers (founders of the Chess Record label) during a Sunnyland Slim recording session in 1947. He recorded many sides under his own name as well as pseudonyms such as Dr. Clayton's Buddy and Delta Joe. He also worked with many of the best in the business including John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson and Big Bill Broonzy .  He enjoyed a prolific recording career as well as performing regularly in the clubs around Chicago. In 1963 he toured Europe and in 1970 he launched his own record label called Airways and continued to record, tour, and play clubs. He suffered with failing health in his latter years, becoming quite frail, and following a nasty fall on an icy sidewalk, Sunnyland Slim died of kidney failure in 1995.