Bill "Watermelon Slim" Homans has built a remarkable reputation with his raw, impassioned intensity. HARP Magazine wrote "From sizzling slide guitar...to nitty-gritty harp blowing...to a gruff, resonating Okie twang, Slim delivers acutely personal workingman blues with both hands on the wheel of life, a bottle of hooch in his pocket, and the Bible on the passenger seat." Paste Magazine writes "He's one hell of a bottleneck guitarist, and he's got that cry in his voice that only the greatest singers in the genre have had before him."
The industry agrees on all fronts. Watermelon Slim and his crack touring band The Workers have garnered 17 Blues Music Award nominations in four years including a record-tying six in both 2007 & 2008. Only the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray have landed six in a year, and Slim is the only blues artist in history with twelve in two consecutive years. In Spring 2009 he was the cover story of Blues Revue magazine.
Two of Slim's records were ranked #1 in England's MOJO Magazine's annual Top Blues CD rankings. Industry awards include The Independent Music Award for Blues Album of the Year, The Blues Critic Award and Canada's Maple Blues Award for International Artist of the Year for 2007. Slim has hit #1 on the Living Blues Charts, top five on the Roots Music Report and debuted in the top ten in Billboard. One of Slim's most impressive industry accolades may be the liner notes of The Wheel Man eagerly written by the late legendary Jerry Wexler who called him a "one-of-a-kind pickin' n singing Okie dynamo."
Slim was born in Boston in 1949. His late father was an iconic Boston attorney who defended in the first case of a doctor being tried for performing an abortion after Roe v. Wade. His late brother Peter was a world-famous classical composer whose works are regularly played at Carnegie Hall. "Pete is much more big-time than I am," Slim says admiringly.
He was raised in North Carolina. He says he first heard the blues at the age of 5, listening to his mother's housekeeper sing John Lee Hooker songs while taking care of him and his brother.
Slim failed to stick in his first try at college, dropped out, enlisted in the US Army and volunteered for Vietnam duty. While laid up in a Cam Ranh Bay hospital bed he taught himself upside-down left-handed slide guitar on a $5 balsawood model, first using a quarter, and then a triangle pick cut from a plastic coffee can top, with his Zippo lighter as the slide.
Slim first appeared on the music scene with the release of one of only a handful of LPs produced by Vietnam veterans during the War. The project was Merry Airbrakes, a 1973 protest tinged LP. Country Joe McDonald later included a track from that record in one of his anthologies of music by veterans. In the 40-plus years since his war service Slim has been a truck driver, forklift operator, sawmiller (where he lost the top of a finger), firewood salesman, collection agent, funeral officiator, newspaper reporter, and dabbled with organized crime.
By 30, he was a veteran antiwar and antinuclear activist. From an interesting but precarious life in Boston, Slim migrated to Oklahoma, where he spent several years learning farming, including watermelons - hence his stage name. Somewhere in the decades since Vietnam Slim also found time to complete bachelor's and master's degrees, started a family (his only child, daughter Jessie, is 21 now), learned to paint in oil on canvas-- he is available for commissions, he says-- and joined (and left) Mensa, the social networking group reserved for members with certified genius IQs.