December 1997: “I’m the brokest famous man in town,” says veteran musician Eagle Park Slim, talking his blues. “I’ve had trials and tribulations.” As a kid, Slim learned Chicago and Delta blues from artists who played his parents’ roadhouse in Eagle Park, Ill. “Harmonica Sam could blow out a brand-new harmonica on the first song,” says Slim, who started blowing Sam’s castoffs at age 9, learned guitar from Johnny Wright at 11 and fronted his own band at 13. In the 1960s and ’70s he had bands in East St. Louis and Denver. “Six months at Pepper’s Lounge,” he recalls. “Every night there was a fight.” Broke when he hit Eugene in 1980, Slim became a fixture as a street musician, next to Brownie’s on the downtown mall. Since his second open-heart surgery in 1993, Slim works mostly indoors. His steady gig is Wednesdays at the Black Forest Inn. “He loves the music,” says bartender Sasha, “loves to tell stories.”
2013 update: Slim still plays outdoors in the summer, especially at the Oregon Country Fair, where he has appeared every year since 1981. He sets his chair in the shade close to the Bangkok Grill. “They feed me and I bring a lot of business,” he says. Slim has also played at events in Denver, Seattle and Portland this year. Catch him at Off the Waffle, 840 Willamette, during the First Friday Art Walk on Aug. 2.