Influences: Lightnin’ Slim

Peter Green – Trying So Hard To Forget

Researching, writing, and revising (rinse and repeat) my books on the music of Peter Green took me well over ten years.  When I finally released them into the world to share with like-minded fans, it was the end of one phase and the beginning of another. 

In “conversation” with other Green fans on Facebook, and private e-mails from people who have purchased the books, I find myself back upon roads I had thought well-traveled and discovering others that are new to me, with the books becoming a nexus for information and discussion about the music of Peter Green.

In 2017, sharp-eared Christoph Hennebeil pointed out in a Facebook post that Green seemed to have built ‘Trying So Hard To Forget’ on the foundation of Lightnin’ Slim’s 1954 debut single, ‘Bad Luck’.  

Lightning Slim and His Guitar

Lightnin’ Slim: guitar & vocal /

Wild Bill Phillips: harmonica / Ray “Diggy Do” Meaders: drums

A-side, Feature 78 & 45 (1954)

Lightning Slim – Bad Luck –

The chord progressions that Slim studiously plucked out on guitar were the heirloom seeds that he planted in the rich Louisiana soil.  Watered by a succession of harp players, Slim carefully cultivated this sound, producing beautiful flowers in limited variety.

Hennebeil’s post made me curious as to where Green might have come across such an obscure number (Slim’s Excello label-mates Lazy Lester and especially Slim Harpo were much better known in England, their songs covered by a number of R & B groups)

I turned to the indispensable “American Music” website a deeply researched discography site covering hundreds of blues artists.

Looking at Slim’s listings, I could not see where ‘Bad Luck’ had been anthologized before Green’s recording (of course it is possible that Green had copy of the original 45, but I am always wary of easy answers) so I listened to some other Slim songs that were available in England in the mid-sixties.

There was ‘Bad Feeling Blues’ from 1955, found on a 1965 Sue compilation “Pure Blues, Vol.1”.  The connection to Green’s number is a little more pronounced than with the earlier number.

Lightning Slim

Lightnin’ Slim: guitar & vocal /

Schoolboy Cleve: harmonica / Lloyd Reynaud: drums

A-side, Ace Records* 45 (1955)

Lightning Slim – Bad Feeling Blues –

This seemed like an especially promising lead as the collection also has Homesick James’ ‘Crossroads’ and Buster Brown’s ‘Don’t Dog Your Woman’, both of which were covered by Jeremy Spencer.  (Brown’s song was retitled ‘My Heart Beat Like a Hammer’ for release)

Then I saw a compilation released in Germany in 1966 titled “Big City Blues”.  Four of the LP’s sixteen songs were by Lightnin’ Slim, and one, ‘My Little Angel Chile’ is another that Green may have drawn on.

Lightning Slim

Lightnin’ Slim: guitar & vocal /

Lazy Lester: harmonica / Kenneth “Sam” Sample: drums

B-side, Excello (1960)

Lightnin’ Slim – My Little Angel Chile –

There are currently three known recordings of Green’s number in circulation: a “home demo” done at Duster Bennett’s house, the studio version released on “Mr. Wonderful” and a live performance from the Carousel Ballroom in 1968.

To me, the “home demo” owes the deepest debt to Lightnin’ Slim.

Peter Green and Duster Bennett

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

Duster Bennett: harmonica

Recorded at Duster Bennett’s home, Kingston, Surrey –

early 1968 (exact date not known)

First released on, “Out in the Blue” LP (Indigo 1995)

Peter Green & Duster Bennett – Trying So Hard To Forget (Home Demo) –

Green seems to have modeled his sulky, declamatory vocal, on the first two numbers, along with how he has Bennett weave his harmonica throughout the number, almost forcing him to compete for space for his vocal.

The break after the second verse is wonderfully evocative here, with Bennett’s harmonica blowing like a chill wind through bare trees and Green’s descending notes pushing the lonely traveler further down the road.  

The studio recording sounds more like ‘My Little Angel Chile’ with the guitar and harmonica being more prominent in the mix.  The playing now brings a sense of momentum to the number, as does the decision to drop Bennett’s solo before the final verse.

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

Duster Bennett: harmonica

Released on, “Mr. Wonderful” (Blue Horizon 1968)

Fleetwood Mac – Trying So Hard To Forget –

Note that Green has reversed the order of the first two verses as sung on the demo.

Starting out telling us about how hard he has tried to forget all the hurt in his life, and then admitting to his failure to do so, paints a portrait of the singer as truly lost.

Reversing the order lessens the pall, somewhat.

Green’s vocal here also begins to show the influence of another Lightnin’, Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Hopkins influence in most strongly felt in the live performance.  The stark simplicity of the intro transplants Slim’s “swamp-blues” number to the barren plains of Texas. 

Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green: guitar & vocal /

The Carousel Ballroom, San Francisco, CA, June 1968

Released on, “Before the Beginning 1968 – 1970 Rare Live & Demo Sessions” (Sony Music 2019)

Fleetwood Mac – Trying So Hard To Forget (live) –

It is just Green voice and his guitar now.  To compensate for the loss of the harmonica, Green scatters notes from his guitar and puts a waver in his voice on certain words and elongates others to keep the number moving. 

He once again makes small but pointed adjustments to the lyrics, honing his message with each retelling.

This was style that Green chose not to return to after this recording.  The understated, almost syncopated guitar playing places a far greater emphasis on the vocal, and thus demands a “display” of emotional commitment that he was more comfortable and better able to summon with his guitar.  

*I have been unable to discover why this lone single was released on Ace; Slim already had three singles released on Miller’s Feature label.  Did Miller license the tracks to Ace? 

Was this a session that Slim arranged to do on his own?  All of his recordings for Miller were done in Crowley, Louisiana, and this one was recorded in Opelousas, less than thirty miles away. 

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