An Interview with guitarist Sarasota Slim: All music evolves in time and I enjoy hearing the evolution
Posted by Michalis Limnios BLUES @ GREECE on May 28, 2012 at 12:20pm
SARASOTA SLIM: Print Media Lies
Published: Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Artist: Gene "Sarasota Slim" Hardage (guitar, vocals, composition, production)
Gene "Sarasota Slim" Hardage
Base of operation: St. Petersburg
Style/genre of music: Blues
Bio: Sarasota Slim's new disc (the third on Hardage's own Possum Phono-Graphics label, and eighth overall) entitled, "Get Up Get Down," is commingled blues, funk, boogie, slide guitar and heaps of warm Southern charm. Hardage, who grew up in Sarasota, is as authentic and talented as they come, having worked/ toured with Lucky Peterson (1988+) and earning his "Sarasota Slim" nickname from Rock Bottom (with whom he played, in The Jungle Bushmasters and The Cuttaways). Internationally acclaimed, Hardage released four albums on Italian label Appaloosa throughout the 1990s, and toured Europe. He also started (with the now-defunct Gulf Coast Blues Society) the long-running Monday night blues jam at Tampa's Green Iguana. Hardage calls on a changeable collection of musicians for live performances and recording, including keyboards and backup vocalists to augment standard guitar, bass and drums.
Quote: "If only I could do what the rest of my contemporaries do, and that is to brag about some horrible brush with death and jail and, y'know, three kinds of drug addictions, and all kinds of the bad things that blues people are supposed to have, y'know, I would be really popular," Hardage joked.
Where to see: 7-10 p.m. Saturday. Venice's Snook Haven (485-7221). Free / Official CD release party, 6-10 p.m. March 20 at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa ($6).
Where to buy CDs: CDBaby.com and performances ($10)
-- Dawn Scire, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarasota Slim, Skinny McGee Put Tunes In Dade City's Diet By GEOFF FOX email@example.com Published: Dec 10, 2005 DADE CITY - Sarasota Slim has advice for aspiring blues artists: "Give up. Let me have your gig," he said with a laugh. "It's not worth it." In truth, playing for an audience - especially an intimate, good-time crowd in a venue with character - is what makes life as a full-time musician worth it for the veteran bluesman, whose real name is Gene Hardage. A guitar slinger-songwriter and self-avowed Florida Cracker, Sarasota Slim takes the outdoor stage at The Osceola Tavern on Seventh Street at 8 tonight. Skinny McGee & His Mayhem Makers, an established rockabilly group that often plays at the tavern, will open the show at 6 p.m. Cost is $5. "I love to go to these places out in the middle of nowhere," said Sarasota Slim, who last played in Dade City several years ago with a group that opened for classic rock band Foghat. "You can't get anybody to show up in the big city if you're not Shania Twain or something." To Osceola owner Mike Agnello, Sarasota Slim, who has played across the state for the past 25 years or so, is a big name and the type of act he hopes to regularly attract to the tavern's new outdoor stage, which he calls "The Courtyard." Last week, renowned Tampa bluesman Damon Fowler performed at the tavern. Agnello said he was impressed by Sarasota Slim when he saw him perform at a blues festival a few years ago. "He's an amazing guitar player, part of the new breed of the big blues people," Agnello said. "We have the old guys who are fading out, and there aren't that many left. "In five years, these guys like Sarasota Slim and Tommy Castro and Damon Fowler, they're going to be taking it over. It's a big feather in my cap" to have him. Agnello's band, The Black Drink Band, will perform inside the tavern after Sarasota Slim's set ends about 11. Sarasota Slim said this week he's looking forward to the show, which will be mostly original songs, although he said he might cover songs by B.B. King, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton and Wilson Pickett. He said bands such as Clapton's former group Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the Allman Brothers inspired him to start playing the blues when he was growing up in Sarasota. He plays a lot of slide guitar, said Larry Lisk, president of the Suncoast Blues Society. "His blues always has a kind of soulful, even Southern rock-kind of feel to it. Slim is Slim; he's been doing it a long time." At 49, Sarasota Slim plays Bay area clubs as often as he can. On Friday, he was scheduled to perform at Backroom Bluz in Eustis. For years, he has lived with his wife, Allison, in St. Petersburg, where they raise their daughters, Georgia, 13, and Rachel, 11. He has released six CDs, four on an Italian label and the last two on his own label, Possum Phono-Graphics. Joining Sarasota Slim on Saturday will be bassist Bill "Sugar Bear" Arzt, drummer Dave Wooten and possibly an extra guitarist. "We plan on bringing some thunder," Slim said. "I've got some new stuff I want to play."
What you need is a dose of the blues Jim Abbott - Orlando Sentinal November 18, 2005 ....When the Downtown Orlando Blues Fest 2005 takes over Wall Street Plaza from 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday, it showcases an assortment of local, regional and national acts. There will be barbecue, too, which sounds delicious even if it won't do anything for my guilt about eating too much barbecue. The lineup features a variety of styles: Traditional blues from James and Lucky Peterson (7 p.m.), the father and son combination known for collaborations with King Snake Records founder Bob Greenlee; R&B-flavored sounds from Central Florida's Beautiful Bobby Blackmon (4:30 p.m.); rock-oriented stuff from Orlando's Shaun Rounds (2:30 p.m.); more old-school blues from nationally known Sarasota Slim (5:45 p.m.) and Orlando's Smokin' Torpedoes (2 p.m.); and jump-swing sounds from California's Little Charlie and the Nightcats (9 p.m.). "This is kind of a grass-roots effort to build the blues back in Orlando," says festival organizer Jeff Willey, of the Smokin' Torps. A similar event last year attracted only local bands, but the scope has broadened this time...
Tallahassee Democrat Posted on Fri, Jul. 01, 2005 Music hot enough to blast away stifling doldrums By Kati Schardl Here's what washed up on my sonic shores this week: Slim chance - Well, look who's gone and grown up! I first met Rick Lollar in 2000 when he was a 14-year-old self-professed computer geek with a cowlick, a shy, boyish grin and the skill of a player many years his senior on electric guitar. My, how time flies! It makes me feel a little bit ancient to know that Lollar has graduated from high school and has accepted a jazz scholarship to FSU's music school, where he'll polish his already amazing playing. Before he starts at FSU in the fall, Lollar will spend the summer at Boston's Berklee College of Music. But first he joins one of his mentors, fellow ax-slinger Sarasota Slim, for a throwdown Saturday at Bullwinkle's.
Best of the best...sans Eric Roberts By Jo Tompkins Gainesville.com March 31. 2005 ...Also on April Fool’s, Sarasota Slim will be at the Side Bar with his evening entitled “I’ll Be Your Fool,” one of the songs off his album, Snook Fishin’. Slim is a bluesy, “guitar slinger singer songwriter,” or as he puts it, a “white boy blues rocker.” Slim and his band mates will be serving up some good ol’ Southern rock and blues music, and it’s a great opportunity to see a local and very influential artist live... ----------------------------------------- http://www.bluenight.com/BluesBytes/wn1204.html December 2004 by GRAHAM CLARKE Sarasota Slim, based in Florida, has been playing the blues for over two decades, and not that garbage that passes for blues at your local yuppie bar. Slim (a.k.a. Gene Hardage) plays the real thing. After four releases on the Italian Appaloosa label, Slim has returned with Boney Fingers, his second release on his own Possum Phono-Graphics label, and it is a breath of fresh air. Though he's associated with the blues, he mixes various genres well, including a touch of swing (Swing Thing), some blue-eyed soul (Out-O-Sight, I Found Out), and even calypso (Calypso Joe), all of which mesh well with his blues tunes. The latter includes the standout opener I'm Gonna Get You, which sounds straight out of the Elmore James songbook, I Want To Know, with it's 50s-era Chicago feel, and the grooving Booty Boomerang, which is so funky it appears in two installments. Slim is an outstanding guitarist, whose style ranging from some tasty slide to straight-ahead blues, and it also has a smooth, expressive vocal style. In addition, Slim wrote all the songs on the disc and there's not a dud in the bunch. The band, made up of musicians from the Tampa area, provide skin-tight backing and really complement Slim well. This disc was recorded at Slim's house and sounds great. This is very good stuff and is highly recommended. For more info on Sarasota Slim, check out his website at www.sarasotaslim.com.
Dunedin renews the blues Over the years, the city's one-day wine and music festival had drifted into other genres, but this year, it's back to pure blues. By MARTY CLEAR St. Petersburg Times Published September 23, 2004 After 12 years, the organizers of Dunedin Wines the Blues thought the event needed a little tweaking. It wasn't that the annual one-night festival hadn't been popular. In fact, 20,000 to 25,000 people turned up every year to sample some wine and hear some live music from local blues, rock and oldies bands. "We just wanted to make it a more upscale event this year," said Bill Coleman, president of the Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association. "Even though it's called Dunedin Wines the Blues, there were other kinds of music, and we wanted to get back to the blues. And we also wanted to upgrade the wine selection, to have things that people can't buy at a supermarket." Coleman realized neither he nor anyone else in his organization (which co-sponsors the event with the city of Dunedin) had enough expertise in the local blues scene to find the best players. But he knew of someone who did: Sarasota Slim. Coleman "didn't know the blues, but he used to live in Sarasota so he knew my name and he called me," said blues singer-guitarist Sarasota Slim, now a Pinellas County resident. "I told him I'd be glad to be involved as little or as much as he wanted me to be. Turned out I was involved a lot." Slim had the knowledge and the connections to make sure the lineup was all blues. But he also took care to make sure diverse styles were represented. "You've got Nitro, who plays old-time, down-in-the-alley blues," Slim said. "But there's also Dwight Champagne, who's more of a R&B front man kind of guy." Because Sarasota Slim plays out-of-town gigs regularly, he also knows the blues scene in surrounding areas. That helped him attract Rick Lollar, a 17-year-old guitar wizard from Tallahassee. Lollar is often compared to Derek Trucks, who started gaining national attention a decade ago while he was still a teen. But Slim thinks Lollar is more polished than Trucks was at the same age. "I think he's approaching the point where Derek Trucks is now," Slim said. Besides a more intense helping of the blues, longtime festival fans will notice some other changes this year. Instead of having food vendors, the merchants association has arranged for downtown restaurants to set up tents outside their establishments to sell food to festivalgoers. Because downtown Dunedin has so many good restaurants, Coleman said, that should lead to a better variety of food. It also helps downtown businesses, which are footing part of the bill for the festival, attract potential new customers. The wine selection will concentrate on higher-quality offerings, and representatives from four wine merchants will help educate aspiring oenophiles. Organizers had also hoped for a slight change of venue, but that looks like it will be delayed until next year. Each year, the bands set up in a parking lot at Main Street and Douglas Avenue, though most of the crowd is in adjacent Pioneer Park. The park is being renovated, and Coleman said organizers had hoped that a new bandshell would be open in time. "Because of the hurricanes and all the rain, the contractors were delayed and the bandshell just didn't get done," Coleman said. "So this year the bands are in the parking lot one more time, and we've got about half of Pioneer Park, which is right next to the parking lot." PREVIEW Dunedin Wines the Blues is scheduled for 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer Park, Main Street and Douglas Avenue. The rain date is 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, but a $1 "wristband donation" is requested from patrons older than 21; the wristband allows them to purchase beer and wine. Here is the lineup of musical acts: 5 p.m.: Rose Bilal 6 p.m.: Nitro and the Tampa Bay Blues Machine 7 p.m.: Dwight Champagne with Jerry Kenny 8 p.m.: Ed Lanier's Blues Review with Johnny Love 9 p.m.: Sarasota Slim 10 p.m.: Sarasota Slim with Rick Lollar
www.TBNWeekly.com Entertainment Extra - September 2004 Dunedin Wine the Blues Festival will be true blues review By STEVE BLANCHARD - DUNEDIN Blues fans get ready. Whether you're fanatical about that woeful sound of the guitar or just curious about the blues genre, the blues as they were meant to be heard will be presented at the Dunedin Wine the Blues Festival, Saturday, Sept. 25. Musicians ranging from well-known recording artists to the local groups just getting started can be heard at Pioneer Park for the 13th Annual Dunedin Wine the Blues Festival. According to entertainment coordinator Gene Hardage, also known as Sarasota Slim, the musicians all have one thing in common - talent. I've gone out and helped find a lot of people for this event, Hardage said. I helped out in its second year and this is my first time back since. This year they wanted to do things a little differently and I helped line up the entertainment. The entertainers will all perform on just one stage, Hardage said. The mix of talent lined up for the festival will offer fans of blues enough surprises to keep them happy throughout the event. This will be kind of a controlled mayhem, Hardage laughed. But it will be a true blues review. This concept is about musical fellowship. Some of the players will do double duty playing with other groups. This provides some spontaneity to the event. Hardage admits it's not only the expected 20,000 to 30,000 members of the audience who will benefit from the Dunedin Downtown Merchants Association event. Musicians who might not otherwise be heard will have a forum to reach a diverse audience. This is a gig everyone should want because of the exposure it provides, Hardage said. This gives them the attention they deserve. You have to admit you're never going to fit 20,000 people in a club, and these venues have quite a few people who don't normally go out and search for blues music. The Dunedin Wine the Blues Festival will kick off at 5 p.m. with Rose Bilal on stage. Other performers expected to attend include Nitro and the Tampa Bay Blues Machine, Dwight Champagne with Jerry Kenny, Ed Lanier's Blues Review with Johnny Love and Sarasota Slim with special guest Rick Lollar. Rick is a 17-year-old wizard from Tallahassee, Hardage said. There are definitely going to be some fireworks going on at this thing. I'm bringing this young guy with me and I may shake the dust off my old fingers and get up there and perform, too. Hardage has lived in St. Petersburg for 18 years and is still a regional act. He performs throughout the state of Florida and portions of the Southeastern United States. He has recorded six albums, two on his own label. Dunedin Wine the Blues Festival is free and open to the public. While the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce focuses on wine tasting, according to Hardage, he's focusing on the music as the main event. This is a real blues event, Hardage said. This is our piece of glory. Without glory, these musicians can never make money. Everyone should check this out. Most people don't know they're blues fans until they've gone and seen something like this. We will have a quality set of entertainers who are truly gifted. I'm convinced most of these people will just wow you. Pioneer Park is at Douglas and Main Street in Dunedin.
VIBES | FEATURE 02.26.04 Still alive and ... slim Bluesman Sarasota Slim, deeply committed to a "shallow' aim BY BRYAN POWELL firstname.lastname@example.org - Those "Where Are They Now" specials that populate VH1, MTV and E! are as irresistible as a car crash. These shows invite you to slow down and gawk at the once-hip subjects, now fattish, wrinkled, with gray hair or none -- cultural refugees in the aftermath of their 15 minutes of fame. Such programs rarely feature blues musicians, however, because blues is never truly in fashion. Thus, ironically, blues artists never go out of style, never get swept up or away in the passing of fads. A guy (or girl) could do worse, actually, than navigate this slender but comparatively stable entertainment niche, never getting rich or famous, but still doing the thing you love as the years go passing by. So it is for guitarist Sarasota Slim, aka Gene Hardage, a married man and father of two who has been performing for 25 years. Slim, 47, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., is no road warrior -- Saturday's show at Darwin's is his first Atlanta appearance in more than a decade -- but he's still a musician. "I don't work as much as I'd like to, and you certainly can't make any money at it, but I like it," says Slim. "I'm just a real shallow person, I guess. I like to make 'em dance and get wild and do all the things that people do in a decadent nightclub. I'm just an old geezer who likes to see people having fun." Slim admits to an extra measure of satisfaction when an audience member in the midst of reverie requests one of his own tunes without realizing it's an original. It suggests they find Slim's material every bit as satisfying as the far-ranging cover songs he plays. "That's my biggest thrill," says Slim. The ability to write original tunes, in fact, was essential in securing a record deal with the Italian-based Appaloosa label in the '90s. Slim discovered the label through a fellow musician, and quickly landed a deal -- Europe offers a strong market for American blues -- but the label's owner insisted on mostly original material. Slim was happy to oblige, and subsequently released four CDs on Appaloosa. He has since issued two CDs on his own Possum Phono-Graphics label: Snook Fishin' (1999) and Boney Fingers (2001), which exclusively feature originals. Several factors separate Slim from the typical blues guitar-slinger mimic. Though known as a bluesman, Slim's repertoire includes heaps of funk, R&B, swing and even a taste of calypso. A seasoned player, he deftly mixes styles, tempos and dynamic levels to reach listeners, tapping resources as diverse as War, Wilson Pickett, Charlie Daniels (he does a slide guitar overhaul of "Devil Went Down to Georgia") and Jimi Hendrix (whose version of "The Star Spangled Banner" he covers). Throughout, Slim brings steadfast integrity to his music and his instrument. He got his first guitar at 13, and Hendrix, Cream and the Allman Brothers Band made a mighty impression. Slim traced the performers who influenced these artists and discovered a common ground of blues guitarists, including Albert King, Elmore James, B.B. King and Otis Rush. Decades later, he's faithful to these pioneers and to the blues-rock inheritors who were his original inspiration. To remain true to that spirit, expressing multi-facets of both himself and the blues (originators and innovators), expect Slim to bring at least five guitars to Darwin's. There's a Fender Stratocaster, with its classic, stinging tone; a warmer, more urbane Gibson 335; two slide guitars, tuned to different open chords for vintage country blues and Duane Allman-styled jamming; and yet another Stratocaster, tuned low for an unusual baritone effect. Here's a guy who clearly still loves the instrument and the effect it has on him and his audiences, even after all these years. "When you grab a feedback note, a note that makes you happy," says Slim, "and you can see it go through the audience and they're happy, too, then you know you've hit the right note at the right time. You've got the right one."
No Singing The Blues After This Festival By BOB ROSS - Tampa Tribune Published: Apr 8, 2003 ...Grand Finale Sunday's show started with Florida favorite Sarasota Slim (nee Gene Hardage), whose slide guitar remains among the region's most inventive and listenable. Festival promoter Ross took time out to play guest harmonica under his stage name, Sonny Charles. Slim, like Thackery on Friday, played ``The Star-Spangled Banner'' on guitar. Both men received standing ovations...
Sarasota Slim - Rod Harmon - Bradenton Herald - Friday, May. 24, 2002 Gene Hardage can remember when the drawbridge at Stickney Point was hand-operated by a crank. That has nothing to do with his musical abilities, but it does give an indication of where he formed his influences. Born in Fort Walton Beach, Hardage's family moved to Sarasota when he was a baby. He grew up listening to the R&B that seeped through the walls of local juke joints like water through a sponge, absorbing every slide guitar lick and gut-bucket beat. Those formative years laid the groundwork that eventually would turn Hardage into Sarasota Slim. "I just slowly slipped into it, like quicksand," Hardage said with a laugh from his home in St. Petersburg. "Now I'm stuck!" Sarasota Slim recently started playing the Bradenton area again after concentrating his efforts north of the Sunshine Skyway during the past few years. He's a regular at the new Bongo's Bayside Restaurant, 9915 Manatee Ave. W., and will play there 3-7 p.m. June 1. An inventive guitar player with a flair for mid-'60s British blues, Hardage learned his chops playing alongside the late Rock Bottom in the Cutaways. It was Rock who gave him the tag Sarasota Slim because of his long, gangly frame (6 feet tall, 125 pounds at the time). As Hardage became more proficient, it was clear that he needed to break out on his own. He had toured Europe with the Cutaways, and cut a deal with a label in Milan, Italy, to distribute his material. "In the states, the plate is full of white boys playing the blues," he said. "Alligator (Records) has sent me several rejection letters. I had a better shot in Europe." The thing that separates Hardage from most blues guitarists is that he doesn't just play traditional blues scales. In concert, he may dive into a Latin-flavored tune, then fiddle around with a jazz-fusion combo, and wind things up with loud, feedback-driven acid rock. The thread that binds it all is the blues undertone. "I've never been a straight, retro-blues kind of guy," he said. "I'm not just a one-trick pony with my instrument. I like the obvious, blues-rock stuff, and from there is the more traditional blues, and there's jazzy blues, and there's roots-oriented music, maybe even leaning towards Americana." That combination of musical versatility and blues sensibility has landed him opening slots for such heavy-hitters as Bobby "Blue" Bland, Little Milton and Etta James. "I get to open for them, provide P.A. for them, get yelled at by them," he said with a laugh. "I got this gig opening for Etta James once at Ruth Eckerd Hall (in Clearwater), and she was listening backstage with no idea who was opening for her. She comes out and says, 'Are you the blues singer?' There's millions of guitar players out there, who cares about them, but she was commenting on the voice. That was wonderful." Sarasota Slim has six albums to his name, the latest of which, 2001's "Boney Fingers," is still available for purchase through Hardage's Web site, www.sarasotaslim.com. Those who prefer to sample music before purchasing it can download some of his songs at www.mp3.com/SarasotaSlim. You can take the Slim out of Sarasota, but you can't take the Sarasota out of the Slim . . . or something like that. Anyway, Hardage is back to his old stomping grounds, and hopes to stick around a little longer this time. "When I was growing up in Sarasota, I didn't have any idea this was what I was gonna do," he said. "Nobody said, 'You're gonna be the leader of a band and make records.' But here I am."
Audio Files: In our own back yard By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic St. Petersburg Times published February 17, 2002 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ An occasional round-up of music by local artists * * * SARASOTA SLIM, BONEY FINGERS (WWW.SARASOTASLIM.COM): Sarasota Slim's latest kicks off with I'm Gonna Get You, a blues rocker that boasts the St. Petersburg luminary's feisty electric guitar and dobro savvy. The song is gussied up with a bit of piano, but it's the blasts of B-3 Hammond organ fueling Booty Boomerang that are most infectious. That tune comes packed with wah-wah guitar and saxophone. Eclectic? you bet. Slim's not afraid to try new things on Boney Fingers, but all the while he maintains a rootsy integrity. The feel-good swing of Swing Thing is ready for the cocktail lounge. Slim's singing is also fine; his raspy vocal on I Want to Know, backed by more yummy piano clinking, harmonica and backing vocals from his gang o' friends, make that weeper wail.
JOEL WELIN: Admit one - Sarasota Herald Tribune The return of the Slim man to Sarasota posted 02/15/02 SARASOTA -- Gene Hardage has gotten over being bitter about about not being asked to perform at fairs and festivals in his former hometown. "Out of sight; out of mind, I guess," he sums up in a telephone conversation from his home in St. Petersburg. "Besides, it's a bit of a haul for me to get down there. And nowadays I find myself wanting to wrap things up at a club and go home and help with my kids." But Hardage is no stranger to the clubs south of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; the inventive blues guitarist with the penchant for varying his repertoire carries a little bit of the old town with him every time he steps to the mike to flex his warm tenor. Sarasota Slim has shared the stage with the likes of Johnny Winter, Etta James and Bobby Blue Bland, has assembled a number of standout bands -- with players that have included guitarists Lucky Peterson and Greg Polous and drummer Tim Heding -- and has recorded six albums -- four in Italy, 1999's "Snook Fishin'" and 2001's stellar "Bony Fingers." But more than just about anything else, what Hardage likes best is playing, and talking about playing, his guitar. The problem is that talking guitars with Slim is like talking fluid dynamics: Terms such as "sustain and release," "channelability" and "magnitude" crop up in his descriptions. But given the nature of his playing style, fluid dynamics may be an appropriate simile. The Slim Man long has been known for his razor-edge slide, his impassioned arpeggios, his minimal use of effects to maximum effect, and his awareness of the emotions his music is evoking. "...Comes from being (in the business) so long, I suppose," he muses, "knowing what works and what doesn't live versus in the studio, and what works recording-wise versus playing live. "I'm a lucky guy, really. I get to do what I love and there's not many who can say that."
Friday, December 28th 2001 - Friday Extra - Tampa Tribune SARASOTA SLIM: BONEY FINGERS (POSSUM PHONO-GRAPHICS) B+ Veteran Bay area blues guitarist Gene "Sarasota Slim" Hardage confidently explores several varieties of blues on his latest release. Opener "I'm Gonna Get You" is Elmore James-style whang while "I Want To Know" travels the Delta-to-Chicago highway. The two-part "Booty Boomerang" is an infectious dance floor filler. "A Child Could See It" is a moody tale of bad love. Tight horn charts fire some tracks while a rotating cast of backing musicians carries the groove. Hardage's guitar work is clean and classy - he's got the chops to wail away but never overstays his welcome. Curtis Ross
Signature Slim Local blues singer Sarasota Slim talks about his new disc, why he cut his ponytail and his dream dinner companions. By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic St. Petersburg Times published December 27, 2001------------------------------------------------------------------------ ST. PETERSBURG -- Gene Hardage, 45, makes his living playing the guitar and singing the blues. Of course, you know him as Sarasota Slim. Born in the Panhandle, raised in Sarasota and now living in St. Petersburg, he calls himself a "true Florida cracker." Boney Fingers, his new disc, is rich in hard-hitting R&B, boogie woogie, Slim's signature humor and -- get this -- even a bit of Seattle-style grunge. In a breakthrough for 10 Pressing Questions, Mr. Slim, our first local artist to do so, tackles tough queries about his music idols, his hairdo and the good blues food. (1) After more than two decades performing music, what surprises you? That young kids cite me as some kind of influence now, believe it or not. Well, I'm an old geezer, so, it makes sense. But all these young kids are stealing my gigs! (Laughs.) (2) Your influences? Mine are all the singers: Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Wilson Pickett. Anybody with great soul. (3) Why are you so darn slim? I'm one of those people everyone hates. The only exercise I get is loading in and loading out (his musical equipment) and mowing the lawn. I'm 6 feet tall, 155 pounds. I was 125 pounds when I met Alison (his wife). (4) What's good blues food? A plate of vegetables and corn bread. I'm into greens, soul food, or Southern cooking, I should say. In Georgia, it's just food. But I like it. And I like my tea sweet, too. (Laughs.) (5) I notice the new short hair. What made you cut the trademark ponytail? It was getting thin. I'm not going to be an aging hippie, no way. I don't want to look like a scraggly old bum. Alison cut it. You clean up nice. I look like a stealth guy. I could hang out at her father's place tonight and nobody would even notice me. (Laughs.) (6) You think your wife, knowing what she knows now, would have preferred to marry a banker instead of a bluesman? Oh, I'm sure she would. Talk to her. Oh, man, that poor woman. Fifteen years with one nincompoop. (7) What do you think about the local blues scene right now? There's an awful lot of groups out there playing some degree of blues. They're playing gigs and getting work. There are lots of highlights. I'm up on Shawn Brown. Go to 10 Beach Drive and watch this guy play keyboards like a monster and sing like an angel. He's it. You were real close with the late Rock Bottom. He's the one who got me started all those years ago. (8) What do you think of all these new young blues players, kids like Jonny Lang and Derek Trucks and Shannon Curfman? That's all over the country. I can't figure it out. I'm not resentful of it. Unless it's a put-on thing. But if they respect the music, great. (9) Who's sitting at your dream dinner table? Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, Albert King. All my guitar idols. You've been able to hang out with many living legends. I've seen pictures of you with Bobby Bland and Koko Taylor, Etta James. I don't claim to know any of them. These meetings were ever so brief. But I'd like to think if they saw me again, they'd remember me, or my music, or at least they'd say, "Oh, there's that white boy who was nice." (10) Got a New Year's resolution? To try to keep a positive attitude. If I were a pop singer, I'd be happy and bubbly all the time. I'm a blues singer; I get depressed.
August, 2001 - Northwest Florida Blues Society Newsletter - One of the first things I noticed about Gene (Sarasota Slim) Hardage was his likability towards his fans (he walks among us!) and his friendly, award - winning moustached smile. His face lights up while he's playing his beloved blues ... There aren't too many really great musicians who will get down from their pedestal stage and interact with fans by walking amongst them; and he truly enjoys it -- as do his fans. Just ask the crowd at last year's Blues on the Beach Party and Concert in Panama City ." Margaret Hildreth, Blues News
November 23, 2000 - Pelican Press - Siesta Key "Sarasota Slim is not famous. He doesn't own his own tour bus or travel with an entourage. Nor are you likely to see him headlining shows at the Ice Palace. But Sarasota Slim is the real deal. A talented and tenacious guitarist, vocalist and songwriter who has been plying his craft relentlessly around the Southeast and on occasional tours to Europe for the better part of two decades. Slim is the rare hybrid who is able to incorporate both speed and economy in his tasteful, heartfelt chops. He also possesses a secret weapon that often suprises people when they first hear him: a beautiful, warm tenor voice, complete with good range, timbre and vibrato... ...Despite all the hardships facing a full time musician, the tenacious Slim just keeps getting the job done live and consistantly putting out good music. 1999's "Snook Fishin' " is his fifth release (Slim previously recorded four albums for Italy's Appaloosa label), and features Joel Hendrix on drums, Mike Chavers on bass and Quency Jennings on organ. Keyboardist Jennings has since been replaced by the band's newest member, Tim Heding. Heding boasts a gold record from his days playing with Gregg Allman on the "I'm No Angel" LP He's worked as a sideman for several luminaries, most notably The Godfather of Soul, James Brown" Phil Colpas
Friday, July 23, 1999 GO! hear -Shorelines-Florida Times Union-Jacksonville, Florida "Hardage and his band will perform today, tomorrow and Sunday at Ragtime in Atlantic Beach, with special guest vocalist Jake Mitchell." "Beaches musician Billy Bowers saw Hardage perform for the first time over 10 years ago at the defunct Pier 7 lounge in Jacksonville Beach. "He's a great guitar player," Bowers said. "he's got his own style, and he's just a fun guy to go see... he interacts with the crowd and when you hear him play, you know it's him." Mark Faulkner
July 30-August 12, 1999 Jam Magazine-Florida Focus "a warm and rambling blues album that doesn't fall into the trappings of conventionality...Hardage's Strat-mastery is a veritable sonic buffet of low, scratchy, leopard yowls and jangly, clock-springy slide squeals." Bing Futch
Dec. 20, 1996-Jan 2, 1997 JAM Magazine "The charm of live discs--especially of the blues variety--is the perservation of a band's intensity, showmanship and provisatory chops. Sarasota Slim (a.k.a. Gene Hardage) and his tight combo (drummer Joel Hendrix, bassist Rene Quetglez, and keyboardist Quency Jennings) prove that they have a handle on all three."
Friday, December 13, 1996 St. Petersburg Times-St. Petersburg, Florida "Hardage whips off some nasty licks throughout these in-concert recordings, backed by an able band featuring the tasty organ work of Quency "Groove Meister" Jennings." Eric Deggans
Friday, March 1, 1996 Tallahassee Democrat- Limelight-Tallahassee, Florida "If you haven't watched the man play guitar, you're missing something. He can evoke Duane Allman with a slide, Hubert Sumlin without one, or he can just do his own thing and knock you back five steps."
Spring 1995 No. 21 Blues Access "...Slim writes clever lyrics, too, as displayed on the funky "I'm Gonna Wring My Best Friend's Neck,"...and on "I'm A Hungry Man." The latter veers into what many would consider Southern rock," Brian Powell
Winter/Holiday 1994 No. 15 Blues Revue "Hungry Man offers a smorgasbord of musical delights with hot guitar as the main course" Tom Townsley
Tuesday, August 30, 1994 Tampa Tribune "It was noon, and he was holed up in a little St. Pete cafe called Saffron's...The veteran bluesman has released three compact discs and ironically, the latest is "Hungry Man" He ain't called Slim for nothing, but he can hold his own at Saffron's ordering jerk chicken and pork cops, yellow rice, plantains and johnny cake, which is sort of a cross between hush puppies and cornbread ... Success, it seems, is always just around the corner. But for now, Slim says he's "happy if I can get 'em to dance. I try to play with whatever unique talents the musicians in the band have. And these guys I have now are real good at groovin'." As long as he can play guitar and eat at Saffron's, he's OK. " Michael Dunn