|Early Promo Shot of Jimmy Reed|
Taylor once told how he had to sit in front of Reed during recordings and let him know when to sing and play his harmonica. Reed's wife, Mary (also known as "Mama") often had to sit beside him during recordings to whisper the lyrics in his ear, even the songs he wrote himself (this was the inspiration for the title to the early 90's compilation, Speak The Lyrics To Me, Mama Reed). To the record-buying public, none of this mattered. In all, Reed charted 11 songs on the Billboard Top 100 Pop Charts and 14 songs on the R&B Charts. No other blues artists could match that.
When Vee-Jay went out of business, so did Reed for the most part. A few releases were forthcoming in the 60's and early 70's, but none of them really measured up to his Vee-Jay sides. Eventually, his epilepsy was diagnosed and treated and he quit drinking. He was attempting a comeback when he suddenly died in 1976, a week shy of his 51st birthday.
Though Reed's story is not a pleasant one, with lots of pitfalls that could have been avoided with a little bit of good fortune, his music continues to be an inspiration, both in its simplicity and in its joy. Even now, over thirty years after his death and nearly fifty years after the peak of his career, Jimmy Reed continues to influence blues artists. One of the best-selling, most popular albums of the past couple of years was Omar Dykes' and Jimmie Vaughan's tribute disc, On The Jimmy Reed Highway.
Nobody sums up Jimmy Reed's music better than the man himself did a few months before his death.
"I just do my one straight thing. But it seems to work out pretty good like it is."
Eddie Taylor was without a doubt a more talented guitarist and singer than his good friend was, but his recordings (including "Big Time Playboy" and "Bad Boy") didn't sell nearly as well as Reed's. Such are the fortunes of the music business. He settled for being an in-demand sideman for other artists like John Lee Hooker, Snooky Pryor, and John Brim. He did achieve a measure of success in the 70's as a frontman, recording a couple of fine albums for Advent and Antones before passing away on Christmas Day in 1985. Here's Taylor performing "Bad Boy" at Antone's 10th Anniversary Celebration in July of '85, just a few months before his death, with an all-star backing band (Luther Tucker and Hubert Sumlin - guitars, Sunnyland Slim - piano, Snooky Pryor - harmonica, Bob Strogher - bass, and Ted Harvey - drums).