Jimmy Reed Biography
Born: September 9, 1925, Dunleith, Mississippi
Died: August 29, 1976, Oakland, California
Also known as: Mathias James Reed
Jimmy Reed’s brand of blues was smooth, warm and even sweet — quite a contrast to the rough, gritty sound which usually characterizes the genre. Reed and his guitarist Eddie Taylor were childhood friends in Mississippi, and they later settled in Chicago, where they would became a unique recording presence. Reed’s easygoing style, built on a solid foundation of Delta blues, featured walking “boogie woogie” bass notes, catchy rhythmic hooks — crafted by Taylor — and fluid harmonica riffs. All this was delivered through Reed’s expressive, irresistible vocals — the combination was a contagiously compelling sound. Some of Reed’s success was also due to his wife Mary Lee’s considerable talent as a songwriter. Reed’s recordings were hugely popular with both blues and pop audiences; he enjoyed a long series of hits from 1955 through 1961. Many of his songs have been covered by blues, rock and roll and pop artists, including the Rolling Stones, who along with Bob Dylan acknowledge him as a huge influence. Even the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley, couldn’t resist recording a Jimmy Reed song.
Essential listening: “Ain’t That Loving You Baby,” “Baby What Do You Want Me to Do,” “Hush, Hush,” “Shame, Shame, Shame,” “You Don’t Have to Go”