Jimmy Reed is a blues singer and songwriter from Dunleith, Mississippi. Reed moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1943. After a short stint in the Navy, he returned to Mississippi to marry his sweetheart, and then returned to Gary, Indiana, where he worked in a meat packing plant, and played blues music at night. From 1953 to 1966, Reed was a popular recording artist with the local Vee-Jay Records label. He was ill-equipped to handle the life of a touring musician, and his severe alcoholism kept his epilepsy undiagnosed for many years.
Reed is an odd figure in pop music history. He was illiterate, and his music was very simple. Many songs are standard twelve-bar blues, with subject matter a bit less bleak than his contemporaries. He was the first blues musician to have a top 40 hit on the Billboard charts (“Honest I Do”, #32 in November, 1957). Tempos are relaxed, and Reed sings as though he’s half-awake. The best Jimmy Reed songs put you in a sleepy trance. Perhaps the strangest quirk is the presence of his wife Mary “Mama” Reed singing along on famous songs such as “Bright Lights, Big City”, “Big Boss Man” and “Baby, What You Want Me To Do”. Her guide vocal may have been necessary so that Reed knew the words, and when to sing them. Reed left an unlikely and remarkable legacy. He was particularly popular with the Rolling Stones, who recorded several of his songs early in their career.
Jimmy Reed Song Notes:
1. Both monaural and stereo versions of “Big Boss Man” are included in the collection.
2. Good sound quality for most songs can be found on the The Very Best of Jimmy Reed and The Very Best of Jimmy Reed, Vol. 2 compilations.
3. “Blues For Twelve Strings” and “Baby What You Want Me To Do (Alt)” can be found on 12 String Blues.
Jimmy Reed Songs:
Big Boss Man, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Take Out Some Insurance, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Baby, What You Want Me To Do, Jimmy Reed ★★★
Found Love, Jimmy Reed ★★
I Ain’t Got You, Jimmy Reed ★★
Baby What’s Wrong, Jimmy Reed ★★
Bright Lights, Big City, Jimmy Reed ★★
Hush, Hush, Jimmy Reed ★
Honest I Do, Jimmy Reed ★
Little Rain, Jimmy Reed ★
Blues For Twelve Strings, Jimmy Reed ★
Baby What You Want Me To Do (Alt), Jimmy Reed ★
Baby What’s Wrong, The Rolling Stones ★★
Big Boss Man (Take 2), Elvis Presley ★★
Big Boss Man (Live), Grateful Dead ★
Bright Lights, Big City, The Rolling Stones ★★
I Ain’t Got You, The Yardbirds ★★