The Forgotten Voices of Blues Men Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed

By Thomas Swan on Feb 19, 2016 12:25 AM EST

1958, Buddy Holly died. Elvis was doing bad movies and about to be inducted into the army. If you read the history books or listen to Don McLean's "American Pie," rock music was dying and quickly. Only that was far from the case. A seething cauldron of black driven music, largely termed blues, was modernizing music and sparking an under-appreciated and under-documented revolution. Two of the men leading the revolution were Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed, two largely forgotten voices who would exert a great influence on 1960s groups from The Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan.

Slim Harpo

Nicknamed "The King Bee," Slim Harpo CDs, except for greatest hits collections, aren't that readily available, except on Amazon, where even the used ones are not that cheap. Slim Harpo, along with Jimmy Reed, who we will talk about shortly, was one of the most accessible progenitor of what was termed "Swamp Blues", (think Creedence Clearwater Revival). However, Slim's groove was so catchy and nasally singing voice so full of jive that his songs were immediate hits. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones would pay ultimate tribute to Slim when he noted in 1964, about The Stones cover of the Slim Harpo song "I'm a King Bee," "What's the point in listening to us doing 'I'm a King Bee' when you can listen to Slim Harpo doing it?"

Born James Isaac Moore January 11, 1924 in Lobdell, La. Because times were lean as a musician, Slim supplemented his income driving truck and even had his own business. An oddity in the world of blues, Slim was called one of the cleanest living bluesmen of the time.but that still would not stave off the heart attack that would kill him.

Slim Harpo would leave a large legacy of progressive, ahead of his time music that has not been fully appreciated or understood fully.

Jimmy Reed

Listening to Jimmy Reed, one would never guess he had such a problem with alcohol that his wife would have to help remember lyrics when he was recording. Reed's alcoholism would severely hinder his career and contribute to his early demise. But that was down the road.

Jimmy Reed was born in Dunleith, Ms September 6, 1925. A smooth as butter guitarist and singer, Reed would influence a general of rock 'n' rollers as well. The ease at which Reed's compositions flowed from the speakers and danced in front of you like a divine goddess aided his reputation and gave him several hits. The people who claimed Jimmy Reed as an inspiration are a whose who of classic rock. They are, according to Wikipedia, "Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Hank Williams, Jr, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Garcia and the Rolling Stones."

In 1953, Reed would sign with Vee-Jay Records and begin his impressive songwriting, foot tapping rhythm and sophisticated brand of rhythm and blues to a nationwide audience. This, again, was that fragile time in rock music when its future was gravely, at least supposedly in doubt.

Revolutionary in the sophistication of his sound, Jimmy Reed is an under-appreciated voice in the history of rock.

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TagsSlim Harpo, Jimmy Reed, Blues Men, Forgotten Voices, Rock 'N'Roll