From Muskrat Stew to My Boy Blue — Jim Matteo, also known by the stage name Sloe Jim, has performed around Pasadena for more than 30 years as both a solo artist and as a member of eccentrically named bands.
His pursuit of music dates back to childhood when he took classical guitar lessons from Joe Marciniak in Pasadena. Another guitar teacher, Glenn Campbell, later encouraged Matteo’s affinity for metal lead guitar.
“Jimi Hendrix was the reckless blues style, Randy Rhoads was the technical style I learned from Glenn Campbell and AC/DC was just pure high-energy rock,” Matteo said of his early influences.
Matteo graduated from Northeast High School in 1985 and joined his first band, Muskrat Stew, with most gigs at EJ Buggs in Fells Point.
At 21, he taught himself to sing, learning to condition his voice to meet the physical demand of changing pitches and keys.
Over the last 30 years, his bands have come and gone. The Ryde, Cocked and Loaded, Catch 22, Majestic, Odyssey, Shakedown Cruise, 4Play, The Rivals, SloeJim3 — all with a focus on classic or hard rock with an occasional top 40 hit sprinkled in.
When Catch 22 disbanded around 2001, Sloe Jim was born as Matteo’s solo persona. The “sloe” moniker was inspired by Eric Clapton’s “Slow Hand” nickname.
He played at Nabbs Creek Dock Bar & Grille and at the Brass Rail Pub, starting out at docks and branching out to perform gigs at casinos, graduations and weddings.
When playing cover songs, he modified the originals.
“Typically I put an acoustic spin on a song because I don’t necessarily play chords,” he said. “While I strum, I like to play the bass notes to give it that second layer of sound, and sometimes I use my hand for physical percussion.”
The Pasadena musician isn’t limited to cover songs. He has penned a handful of originals, including “The Land of Pleasant Living,” a tune about the Chesapeake Bay.
That song was inspired in part by the picturesque scenes Matteo observed while looking beyond the crowds that assembled as he strummed his guitar. He is a frequent guest at Pasadena restaurants Cheshire Crab and Mike’s Crab House North, where he enjoys “fine sunsets, good friends, crabs and playing on the waterfront.”
He has also done acoustic sets during a Memorial Day show in Riviera Beach for first responders and the community’s annual parade and flag ceremony for military members and first responders in September.
Sloe Jim appears at those venues and events, but he has several other projects: My Boy Blue (rock and country), Wrapped in Flannel (‘90s grunge/alternative) and Raized by Wolves (party rock).
After 31 years, he stays passionate about the music by altering his set lists.
“It’s seasonal, so I move into different styles of music,” he explained. “After St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll play some Irish tunes. As summer comes, I’ll play some reggae.”
One genre that isn’t seasonal is contemporary Christian music, which he plays at Jenkins Memorial Church.
Whether he’s fronting a band named after a movie character or serenading diners as a solo act, Matteo is grateful for the musical opportunities he has been given thus far.
“I’ve had a lot of success in Pasadena,” he said. “To still be standing on stages around the area 30 years later, it’s a blessing.”