Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Black, White, and Blues
Jimmy Reed was the first bluesman I ever heard and took notice of.
And the guitar line he plays on many of his songs, which is especially clear on "Baby What You Want Me To," is the first thing I learned on the guitar. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very good at all on the guitar, but I can still knock that one down.
One writer says that there's simply no sound in the blues as easily digestible, accessible, instantly recognizable, and as easy to play and sing as the music of Jimmy Reed. In my case, the operative word here is "accessible."
Hoss Allen, who was from Gallatin, TN, was raised by his grandparents and a black woman who worked for them. The black woman took young Allen to church with her every Sunday. He also had as playmates several black kids from her community; this eventually led to his love affair with black gospel and R&B.
When he retired in 1993, Allen said, "We also initiated a new sound to white kids who probably never would have heard it if it had not been for the power of WLAC."
Yeah. Blues. Emanating from Nashville. The birthplace of country music. So, there's more than one reason our town is called "Music City."
But back to Jimmy Reed and the Blues. The following passages about Reed are from the Answers.com site:
*Blues music has had its individualists--performers with powerful, poetic feeling, tremendous instrumental virtuosity, or a unique sound. But the tradition has also had its Everymen and Everywomen, and one of these was Jimmy Reed, the most popular Chicago blues performer of the 1950s and early 1960s. Reed had a guitar technique that rarely varied, and his vocals were relaxed to the point where hearers couldn't always understand the words he sang. Yet Reed found a groove and stuck to it, creating a sound that any blues fan could identify after hearing only a few seconds of his music. That sound, moreover, influenced nearly every rock music ensemble that had a blues element in its style. Reed's music distilled the essence of the blues.
*Reed was a major player in the field of electric blues, as opposed to the more acoustic-based sound of many of his contemporaries. His lazy, slack-jawed singing, piercing harmonica and hypnotic guitar patterns were one of the blues' most easily identifiable sounds in the 1950s and 1960s.
*Reed placed 18 singles in the Billboard rhythm-and-blues chart between 1955 and 1961, more than any other musician. Well in advance of the 1960s blues revival, Reed's records crossed over to white audiences, and 12 of his records made the pop charts. His single biggest hit was "Bright Lights, Big City" in 1961, but several other Reed releases became blues standards almost from their dates of release. "Big Boss Man," "Baby, What You Want Me to Do," and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" were universally known among blues listeners and fans, as well as among the white rock bands who began to emulate Chicago blues in the 1960s.
Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To."
And "Big Boss Man." The sentiment in this song is something almost all of us have felt at one time or another.