Jimmy Reed was an American blues musician and songwriter whose particular style of electric blues was popular with blues as well as non-blues audiences. Reed's songs such as "Honest I Do" (1957), "Baby What You Want Me to Do" (1960), "Big Boss Man" (1961), and "Bright Lights, Big City" (1961) appeared on both Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues and Hot 100 singles charts. In the beginning Reed learned the rudiments of guitar from his friend Eddie Taylor, a far more accomplished guitarist who would serve as Reed’s accompanist for much of his career. By the 1950s, Reed had established himself as a popular musician yet failed to gain a recording contract with Chess Records, but signed with Vee-Jay and began playing again with Eddie Taylor and soon released "You Don't Have to Go", his first hit record. It was followed by a long string of hit songs. Reed maintained his reputation despite his rampant alcoholism; his wife sometimes had to help him remember the lyrics to his songs while recording. In 1957, Reed developed epilepsy, though the condition was not correctly diagnosed for a long time, as Reed and doctors assumed it was delirium tremens. After his death his songs have been covered innumerable times, by artists as diverse as Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Etta James, Neil Young and The Righteous Brothers. BMI lists over 30 covers of “Baby What You Want Me to Do” alone, while Elvis Presley chose to sing “Big Boss Man” (one of the few Reed hits that was not from his own pen) on his 1968 television comeback special. Reed was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
Jimmy Reeds wife, Mary (aka Mama Reed), was an uncredited background singer on many of his recordings, notably the hits “Baby What You Want Me to Do”, “Big Boss Man” and “Bright Lights, Big City”.