The wildly popular and immediately recognizable blues stylist Jimmy Reed was a major influence on rock music. His style was so simple and basic that it didn't matter what the critics said of his music, it was heard far & wide as he cranked out pop hit after pop hit in his formula. His laid-back, almost slurry style was a huge inspiration to members of the '60s rock generation (Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Yardbirds, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix) as well as blues artists like Slim Harpo. Some consider him a precursor to punk rock.
Born on a plantation in Mississippi, he learned harmonica and guitar from his best friend and musical partner Eddie Taylor. They busked around the region before heading to Chicago in '43. Reed worked as a meat-packer in Gary, IN and played with John Brim's Gary Kings around Gary and Chicago. The band's drummer (future blues guitar icon Albert King!) brought Reed to the new Vee-Jay label where he became one of the biggest blues/R&B artists of the '50s and early '60s. His wife Mama Reed was often an uncredited backing singer on many of his hits.
Despite (or because of) the success, Reed's massive drinking problem led to unreliability. He often couldn't remember lyrics (Mama had to cue him, even on the recordings themselves), he couldn't play or stand up many a time, he pissed himself and developed issues with other artists. He tried to dry up in the early '70s and after an unsuccessful attempt to update his sound with funk, he declined sharply and passed away in '76.