Slewfoot 1953-2011

April 25, 2011

Slewfoot (sitting), Checkpoint Charlie, 2008. Photo by Barry Yeoman.

New Orleans lost one of its best-known street musicians with the death this month of 57-year-old Mickey “Slewfoot” McLaughlin. It was a 2008 jam session involving Slewfoot (which you can read about here) that originally inspired our Still Singing the Blues project; his song Raining in New Orleans remains one of our Crescent City touchstones. He was a talented blues guitarist who, according to his obituary, “played so hard and so often on his corner in the French Quarter that some say the pavement still holds his footprints. ” He was a generous champion of other musicians, particularly those like himself who lived on the margins. But it was no secret that Slewfoot was also deeply troubled—a survivor of heroin addiction, not to mention major medical problems like heart disease.

On WWOZ’s web site is a tribute to Slewfoot. Father Bill Terry of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church writes: “I remember when he booked Little Freddie King and told me. His eyes lighted up and he reminded me of a kid opening a present on Christmas morning. Such was his passion for real music by real people. In an interview with Freddie, Slewfoot talked about the rhythm of horses and carriages going down Royal Street—his music picked up that rhythm. He loved playing, simply playing, and he tried to help folks out in need.”

Folks in our hometown of Durham, N.C. might also remember Slewfoot as a DJ on WXDU.

There will be a memorial for Slewfoot Wednesday at 6 p.m. at St. Anna’s, 1313 Esplanade Ave. in New Orleans. It will be followed by a secondline to the Apple Barrel Lounge on Frenchman Street, where Slewfoot used to play.

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