Low-key audition led to role in Paul McCartney's 'Early Days' video

Paul McCartney was definitely not on the mind of South Side Slim's (Henree Harris) when he went to audition for the video shoot his friend had suggested to him in 2013. “Willie McNeil, the former drummer for John Mayall and a friend of mine, sent me a note about this audition,” Slim said in an email interview. “Willie (then) called and asked if I'd gotten the email he sent for an audition for a blues artist. So I checked, found it and went down for it. I thought because Willie had called me up that they had requested a blues guy and I would just get the job.”

But then Slim, who'll appear at 3:30 p.m. June 23 at the Long Beach Bayou Festival at Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach, California, found out a lot of people were trying out, too. “The corridor was full of artists vying for the position, and at that point I thought, "Oh well," and got in line. I gave the interviewer my CD and a brief history about myself.” He said as he was leaving the building, he saw bluesman Roy Gaines and his friend McNeil. “When I saw Gaines,” he said, “I thought I know who's going to get this part.”

The interview was on a Thursday and the shoot was to take place the following Monday. Friday came and went and nothing happened. “Then on Saturday, I was in a car with my son and got a call, and they said they picked me and would be sending me the information.”

It was still a secret who he'd be shooting with. “When I got the call, I still didn't know. I went in on Monday and all the people that were selected were on set. No one really knew who the artist was going to be. I was thinking it was going to be Little Richard. We were given a non-disclosure agreement, which everyone had to sign.”

It was then he found out. “After we signed it, we were told, 'You're going to be working with Paul McCartney!' Wow, I was ecstatic! I couldn't believe I was going to be working with an icon. I felt like I was going to be part of history.”

The shoot took place in a Los Angeles theater. “The setting was to be 1957, which is ironic as that's the year I was born. We were then sent to wardrobe to put on 50's costumes. Upstairs was the area where we were filming. There was a monitor playing and Paul was sitting behind the monitor playing 'Early Days.' He was behind a partition so we saw him only on the monitor at that point.”

Then came a second surprise. “There was a guy there in a cowboy outfit that looked sort of like Indiana Jones. I thought to myself, 'Wow, that guy looks like Johnny Depp!' Later on, I was in the balcony looking over downtown and he was smoking a cigarette. I casually said to someone that guy looks like Johnny Depp. They said, "Dude, that IS Johnny Depp.'”

Slim had a chance to chat with McCartney during a quiet moment. “After the first jam session, and lunch break, we were sitting around waiting for the crew to get reorganized. I asked him about his first guitar. He said, "This is it right here. It's the first guitar I ever had. My Dad gave it to me." He told me about his father giving it to him and I remember him saying at the end of the conversation, "It changes life." I also still have my first guitar and coincidentally my father gave me my first guitar also. It sure does change life.”

You can see a picture on McCartney's website of Slim with Paul McCartney, Johnny Depp and the rest of the cast of the video.  

This year's festival will feature a huge array of blues, jazz, R&B, soul, zydeco and cajun music. Performers beside Slim include Ray Goren, Margaret Love & The Lovetts, The McKee Brothers, Corney Mims and The Knowitaltz, Jeffrey Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, T-Broussard and the Zydeco Steppers, Jo Jo Reed, The Acadien Cajun Band and Crawdaddio. Tickets are available in advance at The Long Beach Bayou website.

This week, McCartney released two new songs, “I Don't Know” and “Come On To Me,” ahead of a new album, “Egypt Station,” coming out Sept.7. He also told the BBC in interviews that he plans several live shows in upcoming months.