MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Things are improving for Montgomery bluesman Stanford “Slim” Barnes, who was hospitalized in August and spent a week in ICU due to COVID-19.
“I’m virus free. I’m doing well,” said Barnes, 78, an Alabama Blues Hall of Fame member who’s played with the likes of B.B. King, Clarence Carter, Slim Harpo, John Lee Hooper, Johnnie Taylor and Wilson Pickett.
“I’m an old man, and I’ve had one hellacious career,” Barnes said. “I never made the big time, but I was around all those other icons. I’m just blessed.”
He’s not going home just yet. Barnes will be discharged from the hospital soon, and from there will go into a rehabilitation center. It’s a much better outcome than he feared going in. After all, the virus claimed the life of another longtime Montgomery musician Henry Pugh.
“When I came into the hospital, I didn’t expect to leave,” Barnes said. “I was so afraid. I’d lost Brother Pugh. I’d lost a couple off friends in a couple of days, man. I didn’t expect to leave this hospital on my own.”
Barnes didn’t want to get his symptoms checked at first. Fortunately, his wife made him go into the V.A. Hospital.
“My wife canceled all my gigs, man,” Barnes said. “I was upset about that, but she did the right thing. She knew I was sick. I couldn’t have made those gigs. She did the right thing.”
There were also underlying health issues. Barnes is diabetic and has scoliosis.
Day by day, Barnes said he grew stronger and stronger. As of last week, he was able go get around his hospital room on his own.
“I’m just a living miracle,” Barnes said.
Before his illness, Barnes and his band Slim and the Soulful Saints were regular performers at B.B. King’s Montgomery and SweetCreek Farm Market in Pike Road.
“Reed Ingram (SweetCreek’s owner) told me that he was going to get me a banner,” Barnes said. “The banner’s going to be real simple: ‘The Real Thing.’ And I am… There’s no other band that sounds like my band, I guarantee you that.”
He cherishes being a true bluesman in Montgomery, though that’s not all he is. Along with blues, Barnes loves country.
“I’ve been a country artist all my life,” Barnes said. “I’ve got a picture of Hank Williams over my bed in my house. I’ve got one of his original MGM 78 rpm (vinyl recordings) in a picture frame.”
Along with his music, Barnes is a veteran and worked for the VA hospital in Tuskegee for 48 years.
Currently, Barnes said he’s weakened, has trouble standing and walking, and has lost nearly 30 pounds, he said. That’s the reason for the rehabilitation center.
“That’s no big deal,” he said. “That’ll come back.”
Sadly, it’ll be at least a month until he’s able to play again, Barnes said. He’s missing the feel of his Gibson Lucille guitar in his hands.
“I am. I am. But I’m going to take my time because I’m hungry for it,” Barnes said. “I want to get the guitar in my hand and get my band together and just enjoy myself before I start playing publicly.”
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