We are sad to announce that Red Hook Slim, or Louis Raiola, passed away unexpectedly in September. Born and raised in the Red Hook/Carroll Gardens area, Slim was living in Bensonhurst at the time of his death, according to friends. He worked as an inspector for the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission and retired approximately three years ago.
Mr. Raiola was also well known for playing the harmonica. Zvi Aranoff, organizer of the Brooklyn Harmonica Club, said: “I don’t think he had an evil bone in his body. Even when he was depressed, he was always laughing and coming up with silly witticisms. A simple, decent, honest guy who just wanted to play the blues.”
Nina Malkin remembers Slim fondly, writing, “Gentleman, humorist, bluesman and all-around inspiration, Louis ‘Red Hook Slim’ Raiola will be deeply missed by his family, friends and fans – children and animals chief among them. As a harmonica player, Slim was welcomed to jam by everyone he met, from street-corner buskers to illustrious artists. As a human being, he brought incomparable wit, spark, soul and style to every gathering.”
Red Hook Slim often performed at venues across the city. He played in the string roots/bluegrass band Market Chords with friend Dale Fuller and in Rust Dust with Jason Stutts. Carl Luckert, who was friends and musical partners with Red Hook Slim for nearly 20 years, remembers Slim as a “terrific blues harmonica player, who played with many of the greats in the blues world, and rarely missed an opportunity for a jam session, no matter how late or inconvenient the situation was. He could make the blues harp sing, wail, laugh or roar.”
Just prior to his passing, Slim had been working with Luckert on a blues album featuring some songs written “especially for Slim to sing.” Luckert promises to release the album in the near future. “It will be dedicated to him – my friend Red Hook Slim.”