Waxing Lyrical: I'm Jimmy Reed

I'M JIMMY REED, JIMMY REED, Vee Jay, Released 1958

In the 1950s, very few blues singers made ‘albums’. They cut singles. If said singles were successful, they made lots and lots of them. When album culture arrived near the end of the decade, the ‘debut albums’ of Chicago bluesmen such as Chess stars Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf were singles collections. But it was Chess’s rival, Vee Jay Records, who filleted the catalogue of the two biggest blues stars into a pair of 1958 albums entitled I’m John Lee Hooker and I’m Jimmy Reed.

Reed was an amiable drunk from Duluth, Mississippi. His slurred drawl, languid shuffle beats and squeaky mouth-harp made him the most successful bluesman in Chicago. But Reed also proved so popular in Louisiana that his work became the foundation of the swamp-blues sub-genre exemplified by Slim Harpo and Lightnin’ Slim.

His secret weapons were guitarist, bassist and right-hand man Eddie Taylor and his wife ‘Mama’ Reed, who not only co-wrote his lyrics but also whispered them into his ear at sessions when he was too drunk to remember them.

I’m Jimmy Reed contained his first few signature hits: Honest I Do (covered on The Rolling Stones’ debut album), Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby, Can’t Stand To See You Go, Little Rain and a few other standards-in-waiting. There was a lot moiré to come before the Reedmobile finally ran out of road.