In February of 2012, news of Bob “Slim” Dunlap’s stroke shocked the musical community. Dunlap, who is stable but still frequently hospitalized, according to friend Frank Randall, is the inspiration behind the ongoing Slim Town Singles project.
Randall, the project’s musical director, has known Slim since the early 90s; Slim, Randall says, encouraged him as a songwriter and recorded with Randall’s band the Sycamores on a few albums. “[He] showed us that you could be a seriously gifted artist,” Randall said, “and still be an approachable human being, generous with his talent, humor and friendship.”
Slim Town Singles is an ongoing online collection of music performed by artists who want to show their support for Dunlap and his family. Dunlap, a singer-songwriter, is best known as a member of the Replacements—the legendary local band he joined in 1987.
Before Slim Town Singles was born, said Randall, artists including the Sycamores, Dan Israel, Katy Vernon, Rob Rule (of the Mammy Nuns), and Jim Walsh had Slim-inspired tunes ready to go. With the blessings of Dunlap and his family, Randall and digital property manager Rich McGerehan created Slim Town Singles as a way to release this music and support the beloved musician.
“Slim has always been a supportive, positive force in the Minnesota music community, and there were plenty of artists that wanted to express their gratitude—and support for him—through music,” Randall said.
Thus, Slim Town Singles was born. All songs are donated by the artists themselves and are available for download on a “pay what you like” basis. A current—and, Randall stressed, growing—list of contributing musicians is available on the Slim Town Singles website; Randall said that over 30 artists have already been in contact with the Slim Town Singles coordinators. (Songs For Slim, a two-disc benefit compilation, was created independently of Slim Town Singles and features a different group of artists from across the country.)
“We certainly hope to show how much Slim means to us, both as a person and as a musician and songwriter,” Randall said. “It’s a living, breathing, virtual jukebox that will hopefully bring plenty of smiles for Slim and his family, along with some modest financial support.”
This “virtual jukebox” is full of the love and support pouring from Dunlap’s friends and fellow musicians. Some artists are writing songs specifically for Dunlap, some are playing Dunlap’s music, and some are playing covers of Dunlap’s favorite songs. The first song, the Sycamores’ “Get Well Slim,” was released on December 11. Other songs released to date include Martin Devaney’s “Nobody Writes Letters Anymore” (a 2004 recording featuring Dunlap) and the Bluefields’ “When Things Was Cheap” (an NRBQ song the band once played with Dunlap).
All of the proceeds received from downloads go directly toward Slim’s health care in an effort to lessen the family’s financial constraints. Everyone who knows Slim, Randall said, wants to help.
“He’s one of the great guitarists, a master storyteller, and a writer of some unforgettable tunes,” Randall said. “He has been a precious friend to many, many people in this community, and he is appreciated more than words can say.”
The Slim Town Singles project was discussed on the Current’s Local Show on December 8. Hear the episode streaming online.
Meagan Pittelko is a student at Concordia College.