Jimmy Reed

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In the 1950s a young singer named Mathis James Reed failed his audition for Chess Records. He was a popular musician around Chicago, but his simple playing and straightforward songs didn’t wow the execs. Chess Records would go on to regret that they didn’t sign Jimmy Reed. ‘Cause a young drummer—and future legendary blues guitarist—named Albert King took Jimmy over to another company. Vee Jay. And that’s where he had his hits. Success came slow, but it struck hard and fast when it did arrive. Reed’s third single topped the charts.

And the hits kept comin’. Jimmy Reed sold more records than Little Walter, landed more hits than BB King. People loved his easy blues. But Jimmy couldn’t handle it. The bright lights of fame were too much for him. Alcoholism and epilepsy made it impossible for him to continue recording. So he never really got as famous as his many of his contemporaries. But Jimmy Reed’s songs became classics anyway. He was one of the Rolling Stones’ main influences. His tracks were staples in the Grateful Dead’s repertoire. And Elvis Presley covered a bunch of his songs. Like this one. “Big Boss Man.”