The following was reprinted by kind permission of Country Music International - a fine magazine in which this article first appeared.

Cult Corner

Slim

Accordion player, honky-tonk pianist and faithful sidekick to every Texan troubadour in town

He's been an apprentice Blockhead, a Boot Hill Foot Tapper, a Blubbery Hellbelly and has appeared on stage with more people than you or I have had hot dinners. Probably had more of those, too, judging by the way his squeeze-box stretches across his portly stomach. Slim is arguably Britain's best Tex-Mex accordion player and a killer honky-tonk pianist. A larger than life figure familiar to anyone into Texan country music, he always ends up on stage with the likes of Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely whenever they tour here. Yet despite almost becoming a pop star in the mid-'80s with cow-punks the Boot Hill Foot Tappers, he resolutely refuses to thrown in his day job in favour of the vagaries of a rock'n'roll lifestyle.

Slim - who also answers, very occasionally, to the less rock'n'roll name of Clive Payne - is actually rather an important person at the BBC, in charge of building works. His only regular gig at the moment is with Slim's Cyder Co, a cheery pub band whose sound veers between country, zydeco and Tex-Mex, featuring friends from such diverse backgrounds as Pierre Le Rue's group and The Selecter. However, during his holidays Slim still heads off to Texas where Joe Ely's on-off guitarist Jesse Taylor is one of his best mates and where Slim regularly gets up with some of the top musos in the area.

Slim's story actually starts back in the days of punk rock. 'I'd never been in a band and entered the Champion Blockhead competition in the New Musical Express to promote lan Dury & The Blockheads' New Boots And Panties album,' he explains. 'I only wanted the runner-up prize of a rare Kilburn & The High Roads single, but I won it outright and landed a trip on the Stiff Records coach to Hemel Hempstead for the last night of the tour. I met all sorts of people, including Wreckless Eric, and thought "This is great. I must do it again." 'On the next tour I just turned up and they let me cop along with them. Then when they were eating tea one night I was mucking about on the piano...' This collaboration led to a starring role on the lan Dury song Blockheads, an invite to play with the band at charity shows for Kampuchea and meetings with the likes of the Clash and Pete Townshend. 'Once you're up there playing no one realises it's because you're a competition winner. They think you're one of the lads!' Slim then tagged along with the Clash on their London Calling tour ('but they made me work') culminating in the arduous task of showing the support for their Electric Ballroom London dates, an up and coming country group called the Joe Ely Band, around town. 'Up to that point I was aware of country but hadn't really taken it on board,' says Slim. 'Then I saw their set and thought if this is country I want some of it.' Having taken up the accordion Slim later went to the Joe Ely Band's headlining London dates, which spawned the album Little Shots, met Wreckless Eric again and ended up playing keyboards in his band. Now an established part of the scene, Slim landed up with the Specials' Roddy Radiation in the Tearjerkers, mixing country, rockabilly and ska.

Then came the cow-punk boom of '84 when Slim joined the Boothill Foot Tappers with banjo-playing songwriter Chris Thompson and released the classic single Get Your Feet Out Of My Shoes. Near-stardom faded after a move from the fledgling Go! Discs to Phonogram led to the usual major label hassles. Slim's next move was to join one of the greatest pub acts of all time, the Blubbery Hellbellies, who comprised of mostly large chaps playing boisterous country for oversized people. Who can forget the jovial Flabbergasted album and songs such as Food Poisoning, Pig Country and My Baby, She 's As Fat As Me ? The Hellbellies exploded, rather inevitably. Other ska/country combos followed, including the Spartans, Skiff-Scats, Forest Hillbillies and spells playing piano for Howling Wilf and Big Joe Louis.

Now Slim's main musical vehicle is Slim's Cyder Co who play mostly around London and who have supported the Neville Brothers, Texas Tornadoes and Joe Ely, and recorded one cassette. Slim has also been responsible for Jesse Taylor playing his powerhouse solo shows here and has played on the dirtiest, loudest country-blues album of all time,The Rhythm Oil Sessions, with Taylor, Michael Messer and Terry Clarke. He's also played on the Rockingbirds' Rockingbirds R Us EP, recorded with retro rockers Primal Scream and recently helped out on what purported to be a dance version of Creedence Clearwater's Bad Moon Rising. But apart from that he's been quiet of late. 'No one's been coming over,' he bemoans. But there's always another Austin getaway on the horizon. Whatever else, at least it's a civilised existence - being a country star on your holidays. ~

Nick Dalton

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