Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Song of the Week: "High & Lonesome" Jimmy Reed

Jimmy Reed originally hailed from Mississippi, and after a stint in the US Navy during WWII, found himself, like so many other Mississippi men of a certain age and socio-economic status, migrating north to look for work. Reed landed in Gary, Indiana where he cut his teeth in clubs and on radio shows playing with the likes of John Brim, Elmore James, and Eddie Taylor. Like each of those men, Reed failed to satisfactorily impress Chess Records executive Lejzor Czyz (now renamed Leonard Chess).

Chess Records' loss was Vee Jay Records' gain as Jimmy Reed took his catchy, stripped down approach to writing and performing the blues and strung together certifiable hit after certifiable hit that would become industry standards once the Brit invasion hit. Songs like Big Boss Man, Baby What You Want Me To Do, Bright Lights Big City, Ain't That Loving You Baby and Honest I Do would become the bedrock of the song list for bands from both sides of the pond, like The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, The Shadows of Knight, Link Wray and countless other bands looking to find that nexus of danceable, catchy and gritty. In short, Jimmy Reed defined that nexus perhaps better than any of his contemporaries.

Today we listen to Jimmy Reed's first recording ever. Before the hits started rolling in, before he got a contract with Vee Jay Records, and before alcoholism would turn the tap of hits off. The song is High & Lonesome and it was recorded in Chicago in 1953 for Chance Records. It's primal and the number of measures varies with his whim. And it is damn good.



  1. Haven't heard this one - very nice. You know what impresses me is how well-formed his sound was right out of the gate.

  2. Great sound.

    What are the lyrics in the chorus, following "Be on your merry way"?

  3. For what it is worth, I hear it as:

    "Well now your packed up, wanna leave me. And I'm not gonna let you stay."

  4. Jimmy Reed had a really good signature sound that you'd always recognize, sorta like Frank Zappa said about Elmore James, "he kept playing the same lick over and over but I get the feeling he meant it," and a great lick it was.