Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed’s lazy drawl, paired with his unique harmonica stylings, and highly-accessible lyrical hooks are part of the bedrock of American roots music. Yet the musician’s story is also that of an unlikely hero. Born to Mississippi sharecroppers in the 1920s, Reed moved north to Chicago in search of work, and, despite suffering from epilepsy, slowly transformed himself from a street musician to one of the most popular blues artists in America, crossing over to the pop charts with songs like "Big Boss Man” and "Baby What You Want Me to Do.”

With his simple, yet effective songs, the self-taught musician influenced hundreds of artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Over the years, a wide range of acts have covered Reed’s compositions, including The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Sly and the Family Stone, Etta James and Elvis Presley. In his notes, Billington muses "Of all the blues musicians who began recording in Chicago in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jimmy Reed might have seemed least likely to succeed … Yet, until B. B. King’s run of best-selling records in the late 1960s, no post-war blues artist sold more records or showed up as often on the Billboard R&B and pop charts. Jimmy Reed’s music was approachable and, at least on the surface, easy for other musicians to play.”