Alexander T. Seward, b. March 16, 1902 in Charles City County, VA, d. May 11, 1972 in New York, NY, Piedmont blues and country blues singer, guitarist and songwriter. Some of his records were released under pseudonyms, such as Guitar Slim, Blues Servant Boy, King Blues and Georgia Slim. His best-remembered recordings are "Creepin' Blues" and "Some People Say".
Seward, one of fourteen siblings, was born in Charles City County, Virginia. Like Gabriel Brown, Ralph Willis and Brownie McGhee, he relocated from the South to New York, in his case in 1924. Seward befriended Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry and retained his Piedmont blues styling despite changes in musical trends. He and the blues musician Louis Hayes (who later became a minister in northern New Jersey) performed together, variously billed as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim and Jelly Belly, and the Back Porch Boys. During the 1940s and 1950s Seward played and recorded with Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, McGhee and Terry. Around 1947 Seward, Guthrie, and Terry recorded several chain gang songs, including "Chain Gang Special", and some other older songs adapted to having chain gang themes. They were later released on the compilation album Best of the War Years. Under his own name, Seward issued Creepin' Blues (1965, Bluesville), with harmonica accompaniment by Larry Johnson. Later in the decade Seward worked in concert and at folk blues festivals. Seward died of natural causes in May 1972, at the age of 71, in New York City. He is not to be confused with Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones, Guitar Slim, Jr., James "Guitar Slim" Stephenson or Norman "Guitar Slim" Green.
by Al Campbell
There are at least three different blues musicians who utilized the moniker "Guitar Slim." In this case, the "Slim" in question was the first. Born Alec Seward on March 16, 1902, in Charles City, VA, as a child (he had 14 siblings), he picked up the guitar and began playing regularly at local dances. When he turned 18, he packed up and moved to New York with the intention of professionally playing music. Along the way, Seward struck up a friendship with two bluesmen who played in the same acoustic Piedmont style as he did, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. While the Piedmont style was rapidly becoming outdated and even considered corny in comparison to the newly polished urban blues, Seward stayed true to his roots. Luckily, he also came in contact with another transplanted Carolina country blues stylist who was also striving to make it New York named Louis Hayes, aka both Fat Boy Hayes and Jelly Belly. Sharing similar backgrounds and musical styles, the two began performing as the Blues Servant Boys, Guitar Slim & Jelly Belly, and the Backporch Boys. While the moniker Guitar Slim was the one that stuck with Seward over the course of his career, he had also taken on several other short-lived aliases, including "Blues Servant Boy," "King Blues," and "Georgia Slim." Over the next two decades, Seward played and recorded with Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. He also released an album on Blueville, Creepin' Blues, under his real name. Seward's accompaniment on that date was provided by a young guitarist and harmonica player named Larry Johnson. The remainder of the '60s found Seward playing live whenever possible and working the folk/blues festivals that had become popular in that decade. On May 11, 1972, Alec Seward was admitted to a hospital in New York where he died of natural causes.