Jimmy Reed

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Jimmy Reed (born September 6, 1925 in Dunleith , Mississippi as Mathis James Reed , † August 29, 1976 in Oakland , California ) was an American blues singer and musician.


Jimmy Reed - Roll and Rhumba (Chance Records)

Reed learned the basics of playing the guitar and harmonica from his friend Eddie Taylor , who himself moved to bars as a semi-professional. In 1943 Reed went to Chicago, where he was first drafted into the Navy for two years of military service. After his release and after marrying Mary ("Mama Reed"), he worked as a meat packer in a factory in Gary / Indiana in 1945. Here he got in touch with the blues scene in the neighboring city of Chicago, where he was briefly accepted into the band of John Brim 's Gary Kings , in which Eddie Taylor also played for a time. After Reed was not accepted by the Chicago blues label Chess Records , he went to the neighboring Chance Records label, where he released the single High and Lonesome / Roll and Rhumba (Chance # ) with the support of John Brim (guitar) and Morris Wilkerson (drums). 1142) on June 6, 1953. It appeared in July 1953 without any particular resonance, Chance Records was shortly thereafter in the liquidation process; Reed was now back at a slaughterhouse in Chicago.

Vee-Jay Records

Then Reed heard about the Vee-Jay Records label, founded in April 1953 , which was initially based in his former place of residence and work, Gary. On December 29, 1953, the first recording session took place with Jimmy Reed & His Trio (Eddie Taylor, bass; Morris Wilkerson, drums), in which High and Lonesome / Roll and Rhumba were recorded again. Although Vee Jay had already recorded the Spaniels in May, the first record in the catalog was decided to go for Jimmy Reed (Vee-Jay # 100). The privilege was of no avail, because after its release in July 1953 the single could not get any chart note, while the Spaniels (Vee-Jay # 101) advanced to number 10 on the Rhythm & Blues charts. His next single, I Found My Baby / Jimmy's Boogie (# 105), which was released in January 1954 , was also unsuccessful . But already his third single You Don't Have to Go / Boogie in the Dark , which came from a recording session on December 30, 1953, reached fifth place on the Rhythm & Blues chart after its release in October 1954. The single Ain't That Lovin 'You Baby / Baby, Don't Say That No More (# 168), released in January 1955, came in third . You've Got Me Dizzy / Honey, Don't Let Me Go , which was released in November 1956, achieved the same placement . A first crossover was achieved with The Sun Is Shining / Baby, What's on Your Mind (# 248), which after its release in June 1957 reached number 12 on the R&B charts and also to 65 on the pop hit parade. Reed's best crossover was then Honest I Do / Signals of Love , recorded on April 3, 1957 , which reached number 32 in the pop charts after its release in October 1957 and was able to penetrate to number 4 on the R&B charts. His most successful hit ever was released in August 1961 with Bright Lights Big City / I'm Mr. Luck and was listed at number three on the R&B charts.

Jimmy Reed - Bright Lights Big City

Reed's escalating alcohol problems and epilepsy coincided with the economic decline of his record company. With catalog # 709, Reed recorded the telling title Don't Think I'm Through his last single for Vee-Jay in early 1966 . In total, Reed has released 39 singles and numerous LPs with Vee-Jay within more than 12 years, including 18 titles in the R&B and 8 titles in the pop singles hit parade. His manager Al Smith then got him a short-lived record deal with the new ABC bluesway label in mid-1966 . Here he played a total of 12 titles on November 4 and 8, 1966, accompanied by Lefty Bates and Jimmy Reed Jr. (Guitar, vocals), Jimmy Gresham (bass) and Al Duncan (drums). None of the next five other labels brought him back his former success. Around 1970 Jimmy Reed swore off alcohol for good, but the long-term effects were a fragile state of health that prevented long tours. Nevertheless, he played at the renowned Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1972 and died four years later.


Jimmy Reed was posthumously into the Blues Hall of Fame of the Blues Foundation received in 1980, as his song Baby What You Want Me to Do (2004) and his album I'm Jimmy Reed (2008); he himself was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.


Reed wrote most of the tracks himself. However, he did not know them by heart, but mostly had his wife "Mama Reed" with him during the recording sessions. "Give me the lyrics, Mama Reed," he asked her, and her whispered prompt can be heard faintly in You Got Me Dizzy , for example . Reed played the guitar and harmonica at the same time (the harmonica was attached to a frame around his neck, similar to Bob Dylan's later). While Reed provided the boogie rhythm on the guitar and played a harp solo, Eddie Taylor played distinctive blues licks and riffs on the lead guitar that would go down in pop history. Reed's lecture was relaxed and light, rather distant and not as intense or intrusive as that of other contemporary blues interpreters. Eddie Taylor played most of the sessions in the trio with his rhythm guitar and was partly responsible for the typical Jimmy Reed sound. Taylor was the driving force behind Reed's success. Reed was the most constant sales success for Vee Jay, especially since his records almost regularly hit the pop charts as crossovers from 1957 onwards. With his relaxed style, Reed reached a larger audience than many performers from the legendary Chess Records .

Cover versions / statistics

According to BMI , 164 music tracks are copyrighted for Jimmy Reed, three of which received a BMI award.

Reed's clean and relaxed lecture inspired subsequent interpreters to write the cover of his compositions. The most-covered titles are Big Boss Man (37), Baby, What You Want Me to Do (31) and You Don't Have to Go (10). So took Elvis Presley Is not That Lovin 'You , while Baby What You Want Me to Do by John Cale , in turn, Elvis Presley, Hot Tuna , Them , Grateful Dead , Van Halen or the Byrds was taken over. The Big Boss Man can be heard in versions of the Grateful Dead, John Hammond , in turn Elvis Presley, while Big Legged Woman was taken over by Jerry Lee Lewis . Honest I Do, after all, the Rolling Stones covered quite authentically on their first album.

Bob Dylan dedicates a song to him on his album "Rough And Rowdy Ways" with "Goodbye Jimmy Reed" (c & P Columbia Records 2020)

Discography (selection), catalog and date of recording in brackets

Chance Records:

  • High and Lonesome / Roll and Rhumba (# 1142, June 6, 1953)

Vee-Jay Records:

  • High and Lonesome / Roll and Rhumba (# 100, December 29, 1953)
  • I Found My Baby / Jimmy's Boogie (# 105, December 29, 1953)
  • You Don't Have to Go / Boogie in the Dark (# 119, December 30, 1953)
  • Pretty Thing / I'm Gonna Ruin You (# 132, March 24, 1955)
  • I Don't Go for That / She Don't Want Me No More (# 153, July 18, 1955)
  • Ain't That Lovin 'You Baby / Baby, Don't Say That No More (# 168, December 5, 1955)
  • I Love You Baby / My First Plea (# 203, June 11, 1956)
  • You've Got Me Dizzy / Honey, Don't Let Me Go (# 226, October 3, 1956)
  • The Sun Is Shining / Baby, What's On Your Mind (# 248, April 3, 1957)
  • Honest I Do / Signals Of Love (# 253, August 1957)
  • You Got Me Crying (A Valley of Tears) / Go On to School (# 275, March 12, 1958)
  • I Told You Baby / Ends and Odds (Instrumental) (# 304, September 11, 1958)
  • Take Out Some Insurance / You Know I Love You (# 314, March 26, 1959)
  • Baby What You Want Me to Do / Caress Me, Baby (# 333, August 7, 1959) The song was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2004 .
  • Hush Hush / Going By the River (Part 2) (# 357, August 1960)
  • Laughing at the Blues / Close Together (# 373, June 29, 1960)
  • Big Boss Man / I'm A Love You (# 380, March 29, 1960 / December 13, 1960)
  • Bright Lights Big City / I'm Mr. Luck (# 398, August 1961)
  • I'll Change My Style / Too Much (# 459, 1962)
  • There'll Be a Day / Shame, Shame, Shame (# 509, 1963)
  • Outskirts of Town / St. Louis Blues (# 570, 1963)
  • See See Rider / Wee Wee Baby Blues (# 584, 1964)
  • I Wanna Be Loved / A New Leaf (# 642, 1965)
  • I'm the Man Down There / Left Handed Woman (# 702, July / August 1965)
  • Don't Think I'm Through / When Girls Do It (# 709, 1966)

ABC Bluesway:

  • Got Nowhere to Go / Two Ways to Skin (A Cat) (# 10887, November 4 and 8, 1966)

Exodus Records:

  • Knockin 'at Your Door / Dedication to Sonny (# 2005 June 1966)
  • Cousin Peaches / Crazy 'Bout Oklahoma (# 2008, 1966)

ABC Bluesway:

  • I Wanna Know / Two Heads Are Better Than One (# 61003, 1967)
  • Don't Press Your Luck Woman / Feel Like I Want to Ramble (# 61006, 1967)
  • Buy Me a Hound Dog / Crazy 'Bout Oklahoma (# 61013, 1968)
  • Peepin 'and Hidin' / My Baby Told Me (# 61020, 1968)
  • Don't Light My Fire / The Judge Should Know (# 61025, 1969)

Canyon Records:

  • Hard Walkin 'Hannah (Part 1) / Hard Walkin' Hannah (Part 2) (# 38, 1970)

Blues On Blues:

  • Cold Chills / You Just a Womper Stomper (# 2000, 1971)

RRG Records:

  • Christmas Present Blues / Crying Blind (# 44001, November 1971)
  • Big Legged Woman / Funky Funky Soul (# 44003, December 1971)

Magic Records :

  • Same Old Thing / Milking the Cow (# 1/2, 1972)
  • I Got the World in a Jug / We Got to Stick Together (# 3/4, 1972)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Mike Leadbitter / Neil Slaven, Blues Records 1943–1966 , 1968, p. 274.
  2. a b Mike Callahan, The Vee-Jay-Story, Goldmine-Magazin, Issue 60 , May 1981.
  3. BMI entry for Jimmy Reed  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / repertoire.bmi.com  
  4. SecondHandSongs cover database via Jimmy Reed