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The legend of Root Boy Slim

The crazy life and untimely death of a larger-than-life blues enigma

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

It was at Yale that Slim first encountered one of the linchpin figures of his musical career: his fraternity brother in Delta Kappa Epsilon, the late Bob Greenlee. Greenlee eventually founded the legendary Sanford-based King Snake Records, known for its dedication to Florida blues music. Greenlee and MacKenzie became collaborators, and they formed an outrageous musical act called Young Prince La La, Percy Uptight and the Midnight Creepers. They gained infamy on campus for their tight-fitting outfits and alcohol-fueled debauchery. Historical note: One Delta Kappa Epsilon who didn’t get – or like – the Creepers was George W. Bush; legend posits that Bush and Slim once got into it over some pot. On a visit to the DKE house following his graduation, Slim, who’d earned a degree in American Studies and Black History, sparked up a fattie on the front porch. Bush, exercising his powers as fraternity president, had him removed from the premises.

Root Boy Slim fans know this is not the only time their chubby hero tussled with the highest office in the land. In 1969, while driving an ice cream truck around Washington, D.C., Slim ingested the correct amount of LSD required to inspire him to jump the main fence at the White House. He was apprehended while traversing Richard Nixon’s lawn and later told authorities he was searching for the center of the universe. Slim would eventually brag that he was the first person to make it over the White House fence since the War of 1812, when the British stormed and set fire to President James Madison’s residence, but that’s not entirely accurate. In 1912, Michael Winter made it up to the front door, insisting he had personal business with President Taft. But Root Boy Slim certainly appears to be the first successful post-JFK White House invader, and should be praised for managing such without eating hot lead.

Treatment following the White House incident revealed that Slim had more than a mere “wild side” – doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia, a disorder that required treatment for the rest of his life. Once a month he would get a shot of the anti-psychotic Prolixin to keep his demons at bay. Since he never really lived a 9-to-5 life, Slim would often miss a dose, and that (coupled with party-related chemical ingestion that could turn him from an astute scholar into a blithering idiot) begat several tales that are now part of his mythos: a stolen street sweeper in Atlanta, a stint at attempting to direct traffic (seated, from the middle of the road) in Jamaica. Friends and family may have wrung their hands over these episodes, but the trouble he got into was never malicious. Despite his problems, they knew their Root Boy Slim was, at heart, a good boy.

“He was a very social person,” remembers California resident Duane Straub, head of the Root Boy Slim fan club. “He would take out this phone book, open it up and say, ‘Duane, I’m dialin’ around the world.’ And he would just call people. He really was the same person on and off the stage.”

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