Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Jimmy Reed, You Don't Have to Go.

Jimmy Reed was another journeyman blues musician who at last found an audience in the '50s. Born in Dunleith, Mississippi in 1925, Reed served in the Navy for two years during the war and then, like many of his generation, moved north in search of work, winding up in a meat-packing plant in Gary, Indiana, killing 240 hogs an hour.

There he met up with a boyhood friend, Eddie Taylor, who had taught him the guitar, and the two began performing. When Vivian Carter and Jimmy Bracken announced they were forming a new record label, Vee-Jay, Reed (along with the Spaniels) was the first act they signed.

"You Don't Have to Go", recorded in the waning days of 1953, features Reed's searing harmonica work, a droning, insistent rhythm crafted by the bass strings of Taylor's guitar (with no bassist and a drummer who seems to drift in and out of the recording, Taylor becomes the song's spine and muscle), and Reed's passionate, barely articulate vocal. Cub Koda: "This track's got such an odd sense of meter that it seems to take Jimmy about an hour to get all the way through one single chorus."

Recorded on December 30, 1953 in Chicago, with John Littlejohn also on guitar and Albert King on drums; released along with "Boogie in the Dark" as Vee-Jay 119 to become Reed's first major hit, as well as the song that established Vee-Jay (ten years later, Vee-Jay would be one of the first U.S. labels to take a chance on the Beatles). On the Very Best.

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