Hines Farm blows the blues harp

. December 2, 2015.

Buddy Boy Slim (aka Tim Healy) and Lazy Lester have something in common— they were both inspired by the music of legendary blues harpist Little Walter. The pair will soon headline the Winter Blues Fest at Griffin Hines Farm, a place whose history goes back to the fifties.

Discovering the music

At ten years old, Healy discovered Little Walter on a Chess Records recording featuring Muddy Waters. Lazy Lester was struck by one of Walter’s albums nearly three decades earlier.

But the result was the same.

“I heard it on the record and thought, ‘that is so f***ing cool,’ I want to get that sound. So, I bought a harp for $3.50 and started playing,” says Healy, a lifelong Toledo resident.

“I tried to play along to the record,” he chuckles. “In time, you figure out it takes harps in different keys and that there’s many positions. It was a long learning process.”

A working musician

Playing music has been a hobby of Healy’s since the 70s. In fact, he first played Hines Farm in 1973 with Big Jack Reynolds. Now that Healy has retired from the construction trade, he has more time to dedicate to his half-century-long passion.

Lester had a chance meeting, sitting next to Louisiana swamp blues guitarist Lightning Slim during a bus ride to a recording session. When the Lightning Slim’s harmonica player didn’t show, Lester stepped in and encountered his big break and misfortune, in producer Jay Miller, who helped his career but also, Lester claims, took an unfair share of his royalties and songwriting credits. 

To hell with music (and back)

By the late 60s, Lester had given up on the industry and retreated to Pontiac, Michigan, where he subsisted doing manual labor ranging from truck driving to logging and road construction.

That’s where Healy met Lester. “This was before he got rediscovered again in the late 80s,” Healy says, recounting meeting Lester and other blues cats in Pontiac. “He’s a country guy from Louisiana who likes fishing and gumbo and country music.”

His first hit (back in ’58), “I’m A Lover Not A Fighter”, was covered by the Kinks. Other artists to record his songs include Dwight Yoakam, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the Flamin Groovies. 

A capable multi-instrumentalist, Lester’s best known for his harp work. He’s also a fine songwriter whose music cross-pollinated swamp pop, blues, Cajun and country. He’s released music into his seventies, his latest being 2011’s You Better Listen.

“Lester’s just a real guy with a real persona and his head is not big like a watermelon,” says Healy. “He likes to fish and he likes to tell stories.”

Winter Blues Fest featuring Lazy Lester and Buddy Boy Slim & the Blues Rockers, and others 
5pm Saturday, December 5
Griffin Hines Farms, 3950 S Berkey Southern Rd., Swanton
419-215-5360 | griffinhinesfarm.com