Login   Sign Up 


Chilton "Sufferin` Slim" Downis (1901 - 2001)

by shandypockets 

Posted: 18 May 2005
Word Count: 533
Summary: I got them Wagnerian kazoo solo blues
Related Works: Baxter Gumshield (1953 - 1999) • Funkel Nostrum (1858-1921) • Malachi of Hereford (1190 - 1227) • Myopia Darjeeling (1889 - 1936) • 

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Chilton "Sufferin' Slim" Downis (1901 - 2001)

Itinerant blues musician and self-appointed "sufferer of life", Downis' extraordinary journey from penniless musician to counter-cultural guru began in the privations of a cotton plantation in Georgia at the crack of the 20th century. The youngest of 42 children, his eldest brother Eidur Downis had already died of illnesses caused by old age by the time young Chilton had survived his first year.

He escaped the plantation aged five at the body weight he was to stay at for the rest of his life, just 22 kilos. He learned and honed his mesmerising blues blend during his many forays on the hobo trains of America, but the booze-mongers and gin joints were not yet ready for his innovative fusion of haunting refrains, Wagnerian atmospherics and shrill kazoo solos.

In 1917 he was spotted in a soda bar in St. Louis by German avant garde composer Herman Hermitz. Bewitched by Downis, he helped him escape when the crowd turned on him, and brought him to Europe, where he performed to packed bierkellers and train station platforms; once famously opening for Lenin at Peterborough Town Hall, England.

Downis continued to perform successfully until the spectre of war once again loomed greasily over Europe. Happily, Downis found himself adopted as a folk hero by the tune-loving peoples of the Soviet Union. His songs were allegedly sung by soldiers and civilians to keep up morale during the siege of Stalingrad. Particular favourites included "Blow Your Stack! It's a Panzer Attack!", and "Dang! It's Cold in Stalingrad!"

It was this song that proved to be Downis's undoing, Stalin himself taking exception to the flippant criticism of his favoured city. Callously denied re-entry to the US for his Communist connections, Downis seemed doomed to arse around the Mediterranean for decades. That is until 1961, when Magda Breyersbruck, a Swiss millionairess, died and named Downis as the sole beneficiary of her huge estate. Downis had unwittingly written her favourite song ever, "Wax Wax Waxy Wax".

Downis settled into a modest 72 room castle in Jungfrau, Switzerland and it was here that he recorded the string of classic albums for which he is best remebered, including 1965's extraordinary "Bim, Bammy, Bim, I sure am Slim", 1967's collaboration with Fontague Paste "Concerto For Stringless Guitar", and the 1970 masterpiece, "Oh Lord, My Ass Hurts".

Loved by his new legions of fans, it was a seemingly innocuous phrase by jazz critic Nigel Thoughtprocess that put an end to Downis' career. In his review of "Oh Lord...", Thoughtprocess claimed "Like, Downis has the clack, yeah? But, like, where's his cleck?"

Downis became obsessed by this one phrase and put all writing and recording on hold until he had worked out what it meant. This sabbatical lasted 32 years until one day, whilst sitting in his bath, he screamed out to his servant that he had finally unravelled the mystery. Sadly, the world will never know the truth, as an unexploded bomb, hidden inside a sabotaged rubber duck some 30 years before by KGB agents, exploded as Downis, in his sheer delight, began to playfully toss it about. Downis was killed instantly.

He was just 100 years old.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

bjlangley at 15:02 on 18 May 2005  Report this post
Herman Hermitz. Nice. I can't really add anything that I haven't already said about the other similar pieces, but I thought I'd let you know that I enjoyed it.

Ever considered setting up a website featuring these biographies?

All the best,


shandypockets at 17:13 on 23 May 2005  Report this post
That would be an idea, Ben. At least then they wouldn't clog up any more of the humour group here! Thanks again for your comments, though.

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .