Last week’s Slim Harpo Music Awards brought Texas music stars Jimmie Vaughan and Lou Ann Barton to Baton Rouge.
At Chelsea’s Café, honorees Vaughan and Barton graciously accepted their Slim Harpo Legends Awards. Following the ceremony, Vaughan, Barton and Tilt-A-Whirl performed with a special guest, original Slim Harpo band member James Johnson.
A Grammy-winning Louisiana blues musician, Slim Harpo, whose real name was James Isaac Moore, was well-known for his swamp blues style.
Also during the awards ceremony, British music writer Martin Hawkins, author of the extensive notes included in the recently released box set, “Buzzin’ the Blues: The Complete Slim Harpo,” accepted Slim Harpo Ambassador Awards for himself and Bear Family, the German record company that released “Buzzin’ the Blues.”
A fourth honoree, Kim Wilson, the singer and harmonica player who co-founded The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Vaughan in 1974, didn’t attend.
Slim Harpo Music Awards board member Johnny Palazzotto presented Vaughan’s award.
“This is a great honor, let me tell you,” Vaughan said. “Who needs a Grammy when you got a Slim Harpo Award?”
Vaughan told a story about being introduced to Slim Harpo’s 1966 hit, “Baby, Scratch My Back,” when he was 12. The band he’d formed with some neighborhood boys received an invitation to play a college sorority party — but only if they could play “Baby, Scratch My Back.”
“All the cheerleaders wanted to dance to ‘Scratch My Back,’ ” Vaughan remembered. “We had to play it, like, five times. Anyway, I ended up being a huge Slim Harpo fan and just loving everything he ever did.”
Vaughan mentioned, too, that his family briefly lived in Baton Rouge and Lafayette because his father traveled for work.
“That was in the ’50s and there was music everywhere in Louisiana,” he said. “I’m sure there still is.”
Previous Slim Harpo Awards winner Carol Fran, 81, a singer-pianist from Lafayette who recorded for the same Nashville-based record label that released Slim Harpo’s classics, presented the Slim Harpo Legends Award to Barton.
“Where are you honey?” the irrepressible Fran asked from the stage. “I don’t see too good no more. My hearing is 20-20 but my eyesight’s kind of bad.”
“Ever since I got turned onto Slim Harpo in the early ’70s,” Barton said, “I haven’t been able to put him down. I’ve sung Slim Harpo songs for over 40 years in every set I’ve ever done. I couldn’t get rid of him if I wanted to, because the crowd always wants ‘Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu,’ ‘Scratch My Back.’ ”
Slim Harpo’s songs are part of her musical being, Barton added.
“I had no idea I was getting an award,” she added. “I thought I was just going to sing tonight. So I’m tickled pink to be involved with this. It’s a wonderful honor.”
Baton Rouge songwriter, author, filmmaker and businessman Cyril Vetter presented the Slim Harpo Ambassador Award to Hawkins and Bear Family Records. Martin has compiled and written notes for more than 400 CDs, LPs and box sets. He’ll follow the April release of the “Buzzin’ the Blues” box set with a book-length biography of the West Baton Rouge Parish native in 2016.
“I’m happy to receive one of these two Olympic medals on behalf of Bear Family,” Hawkins said. “I feel like I’ve got double Olympic gold.” And, in a reference to Slim Harpo’s 1957 hit, “I’m a King Bee,” Hawkins said, “I’m glad to see so many worker bees here working on behalf of the King Bee and keeping the King Bee’s name alive. Thanks very much and long live the king.”
Vaughan, Barton and Tilt-A-Whirl’s performance included Slim Harpo songs “Te-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu” and “Rainin’ In My Heart.”
Johnson, sitting on a stool in the back of the audience, sang along with “Rainin’ In My Heart” at the top of his lungs. Afterward, Vaughan invited the guitarist on stage.
Johnson and the obviously delighted Vaughan traded guitar leads, including Johnson’s famous chicken-scratch solo, during “Baby, Scratch My Back.” Johnson stuck around for another of his old boss’ songs, “Shake Your Hips,” a song The Rolling Stones recorded for their classic 1972 album, “Exile on Main St.”