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Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed (September 6, 1925 - August 29, 1976 was an American blues singer notable for bringing his distinctive style of blues to mainstream audiences. 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.
By the 1950s, Reed had established himself as a popular musician and joined the "Gary Kings" with John Brim, as well as playing on the street with Willie Joe Duncan. Reed failed to gain a recording contract with Chess Records, but then signed with Vee-Jay Records through Brim's drummer, Albert King. At Vee-Jay, Reed began playing again with Eddie Taylor and soon released "You Don't Have to Go", his first hit record. This was followed by a long string of hits. Reed maintained his reputation, in spite of rampant alcoholism. Sometimes, his wife had to help him remember the lyrics to his songs while performing. In 1957, Reed developed epilepsy, though the disease was not correctly diagnosed for a long time, as Reed and doctors assumed it was delirium tremens.
In spite of his numerous hits, Reed's personal problems prevented him from achieving the same level of fame as other popular blues artists of the time, though he had more hit songs than many others. When Vee-Jay Records closed down, Reed's manager signed a contract with the fledgling ABC-Bluesway label, but Reed was never able to score another hit.
In 1968 he toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival.
Jimmy Reed died in Oakland, California in 1976, eight days short of his 51st birthday. He is interred in the Lincoln Cemetery in Worth, Illinois.
In 1991 Reed was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.