Published March 12, 2009
By Doug Hill
Watermelon Slim, aka Bill Homans, sticks out in a crowd. Wearing his trademark Stetson and an over-sized turquoise pendant, our Oklahoma bluesman is a striking figure. He was among the throng attending Bonnie Raitt’s concert at Riverwind Casino March 5.
“Oh, I played with Bonnie Raitt back in 1972 and ’73,” Slim drawled. “She and I both had similar musical ancestors and we went different directions.” This was a revelation but makes perfect sense as the artists are the same age (59) and started their careers on the east coast. “I haven’t been on any Bonnie Raitt records but we’ve been negotiating for several years to get her on one of mine. It hasn’t happened yet, but it might,” Slim said. That will be mighty lovely if it does.
“Are you ready for a thing called love?” was the musical question posed by Bonnie Raitt to a full room early in her show. Backed by an all-male band on guitar, bass, drums and keys, she played from a discography that stretches back to her first stellar self-titled album in 1971. Raitt also played guitar on most tunes, switching between electric and rhythm.
“We have the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the house tonight,” Raitt announced. “Wanda Jackson, I can’t believe you’re here.” The diminutive dynamo of “Fujiyama Mama” and “Let’s Have a Party” fame waved to us from her aisle seat. Raitt also introduced her band, all session badasses, including Ricky Peterson (keys) who’s played with David Sanborn, Prince and Stevie Nicks.
Raitt performed duet “Good Man, Good Woman” from her “Luck of the Draw” disc, with Peterson singing the Delbert McClinton line. “We were just in Milwaukee where it was 15 degrees. What is it here, 80? Much better for the vocal cords,” Raitt said. Her voice sounded tremendous, unchanged from Radcliffe days when she was observed by a Newsweek reporter opening for Mississippi Fred McDowell in a New York saloon.