About Watermelon Slim
Bluesman, Vietnam veteran, and MENSA member Watermelon Slim (given name: Bill Homans) is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who seemingly roared onto the scene with his 2003 album Big Shoes to Fill after three full decades of working off and on in bars and clubs across the country. Prior to that, Slim had hammered away at making music his career, all the while holding dozens of day jobs including trucker (he hauled toxic waste among other things), collections agent, petty criminal, funeral officiant, newspaper reporter, and more. It's no wonder his house-rocking 2006 album was titled The Workers by Watermelon Slim & the Workers; it peaked at number 13 on the blues charts and its songs (as well as their writer) were included in the 2009 environmental documentary Tar Creek, about an environmental disaster in Oklahoma. Slim's instruments include a mean, dirty-sounding bottleneck slide guitar that he plays with a spark-plug socket and a formidable blues harp styled after Slim Harpo, Charlie Musselwhite, and Big Walter Horton. Slim has won five W.C. Handy awards and is a Blues Hall of Fame member. His 2009 number nine blues chart entry, Escape from the Chicken Coop, won him attention on European blues festival stages while his career back home in the states was taking off. 2010's Ringers was his third consecutive set to hit the charts, peaking at number 11. The following year, he cut the cult blues bar hit Okiesippi Blues in collaboration with Super Chikan, and in 2013 he re-assembled the Workers for Bull Goose Rooster. Slim spent most of the next three years touring, eventually reappearing with the 2017 European release Golden Boy before delivering the number 15 charting Church of the Blues in 2019.
Bill Homans was born in Boston but raised in North Carolina, where, he says, he was first exposed to the blues at the age of five. He sang in choirs and glee clubs as a child, but he began seriously turning to music after a tour of duty in Vietnam that ended in 1970. He independently released the furiously anti-war album Merry Airbrakes in 1973. Although he has spent most of his adult life as a blue-collar laborer (mostly as a truck driver), Homans still found a whole lot of time for academia, earning degrees in history and journalism from the University of Oregon and a master's degree in history from Oklahoma State University. He founded a blues band, Fried Okra Jones, in the late '90s and fronted them with his raw, impassioned blues singing, harp playing, and impressive National Steel guitar style (which he plays left-handed). His songs feature subtle, intelligent twists (he is a member of MENSA, after all), while remaining undeniably in the blues tradition.
Following a serious heart attack, Watermelon Slim turned his attention full-time to music, releasing two albums on Southern Records: Big Shoes to Fill in 2003 and Up Close & Personal in 2004. Assembling a new band, the Workers, he released the hard-hitting and impressive Watermelon Slim & the Workers in 2006 on the Toronto-based NorthernBlues Music label, following it a year later with The Wheel Man and with No Paid Holidays in 2008. He then switched gears just a little into country territory with an album of truck-driving songs, Escape from the Chicken Coop, which NorthernBlues released in 2009. Slim kept the country elements and mixed them in again with his brand of roots and blues for 2010's Ringers, his fifth album for NorthernBlues and his third chart entry. In 2011, he and Super Chikan collaborated on Okiesippi Blues, which became a hit in barrooms across the country. In 2013, he re-assembled the Workers for the loose, raw, and wooly Bull Goose Rooster.
Watermelon Slim spent most of the next three years touring, eventually appearing with the 2017 European release Golden Boy before delivering 2019's number 15-charting Church of the Blues. The following year, Slim, at age 70, issued the double-live outing Traveling Man, recorded over two nights at iconic Oklahoma roots music club and produced by Chris Hardwick. The first disc was cut during a show at the legendary Blue Door in Oklahoma City, while the latter was tracked at The Depot in Norman. Both gigs showcased the artist sans band, accompanied only by his guitar and harmonica. ~ Steve Leggett