2017 Blues Hall of Fame Guitarists Honored

On May 10, legendary guitarists Magic Slim, Johnny Copeland, and Willie Johnson were posthumously inducted  into the Blues Hall of Fame, in a ceremony taking place in Memphis, Tennessee. They joined three other performers honored this year at the 38th annual ceremony: vocalists Mavis Staples and Latimore, and piano man Henry Gray.

Slim, a hard-driving Chicago blues guitarist born Morris Holt in 1937, was known for his immense repertoire and enormous output (recording more than 30 albums and garnering dozens of Blues Music Awards) until his death in 2013. Copeland (1937–1997) hailed from Houston, Texas, established himself in the blues genre with his blazing guitar chops and soulful singing in the late ’50s, and rose to national prominence with his blues contributions for Rounder Records in the 1980s. Johnson (1923–1995; not to be confused with Blind Willie Johnson), was the guitarist in Howlin Wolf’s band in the late ’40s and early ’50s, and also worked as a sideman in Memphis and, later, Chicago. They join the more than 125 performers who already are Hall of Fame members.


One night later, in a separate ceremony, the Blues Music Awards handed out trophies in a number of categories, including: Acoustic Album—The Happiest Man in the World, by Eric Bibb; Acoustic Artist: L.A.–based guitarist Doug MacLeod; and B.B. King Entertainer of the Year—guitarist Joe Bonamassa, whose new acoustic album, Live at Carnegie Hall, will be out June 23.  —Anna Pulley, Blair Jackson

Below, Johnny Copeland plays an acoustic version of “Flying High” in 1989:

Blair Jackson
Blair Jackson

Blair Jackson is the author of the definitive biography Garcia: An American Life and was senior editor at Acoustic Guitar before retiring in 2023.