The Island Arts Foundation is proud to be bringing blues sensation Sarasota Slim to The 13th Annual Taste of the Beach. A skinny Florida boy, Slim has been playing the blues since he was just a kid, when he got a guitar at the age of 13 because “every teenager at that time – 1969 – had to have one.” Over the years, he has played with such blues legends as Johnny Winter, Freddie King, B.B. King, Lonnie Mack, Etta James, Lucky Peterson, Gregg Allman and Rock Bottom. I spoke with the affable Slim, also known as Gene Hardage, and he talked about his life playing the blues and how excited he is to be representing the Island Arts Foundation at this year’s Taste.
Sarasota Slim, a self-described “True Florida Cracker”, was born in Fort Walton Beach and grew up in Sarasota. He has been playing gigs all over the state since he was in his 20’s. “My early influences were Clapton, Hendrix, all the guitar-hero guys of that time,” he said, his unassuming Southern accent belying the magnitude of music the man has played in the 30-some years since he first picked up a guitar, “Then I discovered the blues through the music of the Allman Brothers, who were a very important part of life here in the early 70’s. I started understanding where they were getting it from.” Gene told us that he went to every blues concert that came through, and listened to public radio station WMNF. “They brought in some pretty eclectic things,” he said, “It was a great way of expanding your musical horizons.”