The Old-Time Herald Volume 8, Number 5

Feature

by John Lilly

 Downtown Atlanta was a bustling place in the late 1920s. Thomas Hoyt Bryant, soon to be widely known as guitarist “Slim” Bryant, a six-foot-tall, 135-pound teenager, divided his time between working at his father’s electrical business, taking guitar lessons, and playing baseball.

             “When I was working in the electric business,” Slim recalls, speaking from his home in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , “right behind this large theater was a big department store. Right behind that was Number One Fire Station. My uncle was captain of it. So, I went down there to see him. Right across the street was this little diner. It was a place that just had rows of stools, and no tables. I figured I’d go in and have lunch there after I talked to my uncle.

            “So, I went in there, and I’m sitting there at this stool. On my right was one guy and an oth er one, and they were talking. They had been out gambling all night, and they were talking about their bad luck, and all this. I’m listening, taking it all in. One of these guys, he said, ‘Well, you know, I shouldn’t have gambled. I promised Mama I wouldn’t do it. But I lost everything I had.’ And he said, ‘The last card that I wanted to draw was a queen, and I drew it. When I turned it up, instead of seeing the queen, I saw my m oth er’s picture.’ So, I got to thinking about that,” Slim says. “That would make a pretty good song, so I went home and wrote it.”

            The song, “M oth er, the Queen of My Heart,” became a national success a few years later when it was released by Victor recording star, Jimmie Rodgers; it has since been recorded by a long list of singers from George Gobel to Merle Haggard. Slim Bryant soon left his own mark on the fledgling country music recording industry and launched a colorful and varied musical career that spanned into the 21st century.

            Still boyish and vibrant at 93 years of age, Slim Bryant is an innovative guitarist, composer, bandleader, and singer. He is thought to be the last surviving musician to have recorded with Jimmie Rodgers. He also performed with the Skillet Lickers; traveled, performed, and recorded extensively with fiddler Clayton McMichen and his Georgia Wildcats; wrote and recorded hundreds of successful songs and commercial jingles; and became a country music legend in Pittsburgh with his group, Slim Bryant and his Wildcats.

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