Jimmy Reed

Dunleith, US
Artist / Band / Musician

Jimmy Reed was born in Dunleith, Mississippi in 1925, learning the harmonica and guitar from Eddie Taylor, a close friend. After spending several years busking and performing in the area, Reed moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1943 before being drafted into the United States Navy during World War II. In 1945, Reed was discharged and moved back to Mississippi for a brief period, marrying his girlfriend, Mary "Mama" Reed, before moving to Gary, Indiana to work at an Armour & Co. meat packing plant.

By the 1950s, Reed had established himself as a popular musician and joined the "Gary Kings" with John Brim, as well as playing on the street with Willie Joe Duncan. Reed failed to gain a recording contract with Chess Records, but then signed with Vee-Jay Records through Brim's drummer, Albert King. At Vee-Jay, Reed began playing again with Eddie Taylor and soon released "You Don't Have to Go", his first hit record. This was followed by a long string of hits. Reed maintained his reputation, in spite of rampant alcoholism. Sometimes, his wife had to help him remember the lyrics to his songs while performing. In 1957, Reed developed epilepsy, though the disease was not correctly diagnosed for a long time, as Reed and doctors assumed it was delirium tremens.

In spite of his numerous hits, Reed's personal problems prevented him from achieving the same level of fame as other popular blues artists of the time, though he had more hit songs than many others. When Vee-Jay Records closed down, Reed's manager signed a contract with the fledgling ABC-Bluesway label, but Reed was never able to score another hit.

In 1968 he toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival.

Jimmy Reed died in Oakland, California in 1976, eight days short of his 51st birthday. He is interred in the Lincoln Cemetery in Worth, Illinois.

In 1991 Reed was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



YEAR & Single R&B Singles U.S. Pop Singles

1956 "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" 3 -

1956 "Can't Stand to See You Go" 10 -

1956 "I Don't Go for That" 12 -

1956 "I Love You Baby" 13 -

1957 "Honest I Do" 4 32

1957 "Honey, Where You Going?" 10 -

1957 "Little Rain" 7 -

1957 "The Sun is Shining" 12 65

1958 "Down in Virginia" - 93

1959 "I Told You Baby" 19 -

1960 "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" 10 37

1960 "Found Love" 16 88

1960 "Hush-Hush" 18 75

1961 "Big Boss Man" 13 78

1961 "Bright Lights, Big City" 3 58

1961 "Close Together" - 68

1962 "Aw Shucks, Hush Your Mouth" - 93

1962 "Good Lover" - 77

1963 "Shame, Shame, Shame" - 52



1958 I'm Jimmy Reed

1959 Rockin' With Reed (Collectables)

1960 Found Love

1960 Now Appearing

1961 Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall

1962 Just Jimmy Reed

1963 Jimmy Reed Plays 12 String Guitar Blues

1963 Jimmy Reed Sings The Best Of The Blues

1963 T'Ain't No Big Thing But He Is.Jimmy Reed

1964 Jimmy Reed At Soul City

1965 The Legend: The Man

1967 The New Jimmy Reed Album/Soulin'

1968 Big Boss Man/Down In Virginia

1971 Found Love

1974 Best Of Jimmy Reed

1976 Blues Is My Business


The Rolling Stones have cited Reed as a major influence on their sound, and their early set lists included many of Reed's songs. The Rolling Stones recorded tracks like "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby", "The Sun is Shining" (also played at the Stones' 1969 Altamont concert), "Close Together", "Bright Lights, Big City" and 'Shame, Shame, Shame" in 1963 as demos to offer to record labels like Decca, and their February 1964 hit single "Not Fade Away" had as the B-side "Little by Little", a pastiche of "Shame, Shame, Shame". Their first album, The Rolling Stones released in April 1964, featured their cover of Reed's "Honest I Do".

"Big Boss Man" was sung regularly by Ron McKernan, also known as "Pigpen", with the Grateful Dead during the 1960s and early 1970s and appears on the live album Skull and Roses. It was revived a few times by Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead during the 1980s. Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead also played it a few times with Kingfish in the mid 70s, and more recently with Ratdog. Phil Lesh also plays it with Phil & Friends. The Grateful Dead have also performed Baby What You Want Me to Do with Brent Mydland on vocals.

Elvis Presley recorded several of Reed's songs, scoring a 1967 hit with "Big Boss Man" and recording several performances of "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" for his 1968 Comeback TV Special. (However, Presley's 1964 hit, "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" is a different song than that recorded by Reed.) The song "Baby, What You Want Me to Do" was also covered by Wishbone Ash on their 1972 live album, Live Dates. Baby What You Want to Do was also frequently performed by Etta James and Hot Tuna. Johnny and Edgar Winter performed the song live in 1975 and included it on Johnny and Edgar Winter Together.

Reed's recordings of "Big Boss Man" and "Bright Lights, Big City" were both voted onto the list of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

Noted Austin musicians, Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan released an album, On the Jimmy Reed Highway as a tribute to Reed.


(September 6, 1925 - August 29, 1976)

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