Journalist Mark Coltrain’s written a dynamite feature on MMF artist Lil’ Jimmy Reed for the current issue of Living Blues Magazine (September 2023). In this comprehensive piece, you’ll learn the life story of Reed, birth name Leon Atkins. Coltrain clearly had a great rapport with Lil’ Jimmy, as the essay is probably the most comprehensive one on LJR in print.
In it, Jimmy walks the reader through his Louisiana childhood, apprenticeship on the guitar and harmonica, work in barber shops and the military, recording for Ace Records, and even the time he fronted the “original” Jimmy Reed’s band for a gig in Baton Rouge. In this last story, Lil’ Jimmy recounts that his mimicry of Reed was so uncanny, no one knew the wise. As he tells it: “A [local] disc jockey knew I imitated him, he come got me and told me Jimmy Reed got drunk, he can’t perform. They brought me to this auditorium and they took him out the back door and brought me in the front door. And the people didn’t know the difference. They thought I was Jimmy Reed!”
“I’m Just a Good Man… Just Love the Blues and That’s It” is chockful of similar lively anecdotes. One recounts the tale of the all-Korean blues band Reed fronted while stationed overseas in the 1980s, another chance encounters with record producers in the barbershop. Still others narrate LJR following Buddy Guy on stage and winning the crowd over, and of his receiving backstage plaudits from legendary R&B singer Bobby “Blue” Bland. Before and after COVID, Reed’s entertained multiple assisted living facilities: “I love to play in the nursing homes. Them that can dance, dance. And a lot of people don’t get out of their room ’til I come.” He’s played these gigs, and he played in ballrooms with the late Queen Elizabeth II in attendance. As he sums up his travels, music has taken him “everywhere but China and Japan.”
The September 2023 issue of Living Blues Magazine featuring Lil’ Jimmy Reed is available on newsstands, and via physical and digital subscription.