It could be easily argued that Jimmy Reed is rock and roll’s most influential artist. His patented style of blues boogie sound, which he created with soul-mate sideman guitarist Eddie Taylor, has been imitated by black and white artists in his wake. Hank Williams, Charlie Rich, The Persuasions, the Rolling Stones and even Elvis, just to name a few, covered his songs such as “Baby, What You Want Me To Do,” “Bright Lights, Big City,” “Honest I Do,” “Big Boss Man” and “You Don’t Have to Go.” This 3 cd box set covers all of his singles from his halcyon days on the Vee Jay label, starting in 1953 and closing out in 1965. His career was unfortunately cut short by dissipation, and he died barely a decade after these sessions, so this is the essential music you want to dig into, and it’s a gold mine!
The early 50s material swings like a jumping juke joint, with instrumentals like “Jimmy’s Boogie” and “Rockin’ with Reed” irresistible with hooks, lines and sinkers. His voice is leathered and street wise, giving spoken introductions before delving into pieces like “You Don’t Have to Go,” “You Got Me Dizzy,” “Shame Shame Shame” and other hits. Reed’s harmonica playing was like a howling wind, teaming with Taylor to create a magnum force on pieces like “You Don’t Have To Go” and “I’m Gonna Ruin You.” Most of the settings are in trio or quartet format, usually with Earl Phillips on drums, and he lays down a bluesy beat that is as sly as the family stone as on “Hush Hush.” On later sessions, Phil Upchurch takes up the bass as on “Too Much” and even by the early 60s, Reed is in strong form during “Shame Shame Shame” while delivering an intriguing if rare ballad on “I’ll Change My Style.”
Through all these sessions, the sound is dirt under the nails blue collar, earthy and visceral. Quintessential sounds that are the marrow of modern pop, blues, rock and jazz. Maybe even classical!