Sunnyland Slim was one of the key figures in Chicago blues history, one who became a legend long before he died but who really never became a star. The pianist had a prolific recording career that spanned almost 50 years, from the 78rpm on into the digital age. His playing exemplified Chicago blues piano in its combination of percussive attack, rolling, cascading streams of notes, and syncopated rhythmic sophistication.
Albert Luandrew (Sunnyland Slim) was born on a farm in Vance, Mississippi on September 5, 1907. He worked on the farm from earliest childhood and, in the evenings, taught himself piano and organ. Though his father was a preacher, he listened to the blues at every opportunity. The Mississippi musicians he heard were the first generation of bluesmen, players who were there when the blues were being formed at the turn of the century. By the time Albert was eleven, he was already playing parties and barrelhouses whenever he could slip away. He had his first steady gig at Hot Shot's Club in Vance when he was 15. For the next three years he drifted around the South, working joints and house parties. Around this time he picked up the name Sunnyland Slim because he always sang Sunnyland Train, an early blues favorite.
In 1925 he made Memphis his home base. For the next seventeen years, he toured the South and played Memphis clubs such as Pee Wee's and the Hole in the Wall. He often played with other blues greats of his and the preceding generation, including Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Blind Boy Fuller, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, Blind Blake and Ma Rainey's Arkansas Swift Foot Revue.