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The influence of Jimmy Reed grows in hindsight

Rhythm and Blues

Jimmy Reed, "The Complete VeeJay Singles" (Craft, three discs.)

Here, almost certainly is something you didn't know: Jimmy Reed's "What You Want Me To Do" (also known as "You Got Me Running") became one of the most famous straight blues classics ever covered by Elvis Presley when, on Elvis' great 1968 TV special -- his finest hour on TV -- he and his boys sat around and wailed on it, seemingly for their own amusement. Elvis repeated lyrics and seemed to have trouble ending his version of it. He was having that much fun.

On this terrific collection of Reed's complete music for Vee-Jay Records, he's recorded in an interview telling Vee-Jay A&R rep Calvin Carter that it was his wife, not him, that wrote the song, after the two of them had a little marital, uh, discussion. That interview is terrific whenever it's heard throughout this collection. Reed, it seems, wasn't a swaggering blues seducer, but a well-married fellow with lot of regard for the woman he lived with.

As for the music, which was so influential in its time (and spawning hits like "Big Boss Man" and "Bright Lights Big City,") Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones wrote this about it in his autobiography "Jimmy Reed was a big model for us. That was always two-guitar stuff. Almost a study in monotony in many ways, unless you got in there. But then Jimmy Reed had something like twenty hits on the charts with basically the same song. He had two tempos. But he understood the magic of repetition, of this sort of hypnotic, trancelike thing. We were fascinated by it, Brian (Jones) and I. We would spend every moment trying to get down Jimmy Reed records." That is analytical eloquence unbeatable from someone who found out, early in his life, what it was like to get "in there" with Jimmy Reed's blues.

His music and his influence are both considerable in hindsight.

3 1/2 stars (out of four)


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