Reed all about it: Lil Jimmy stand-in at the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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Reed all about it: Lil Jimmy stand-in at the Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne
IF any artist at this year’s Great British Rhythm and Blues Festival in Colne sums up the blues, it could well be Lil Jimmy Reed.
Born in Arkansas in the late 1930s, the young Jimmy Reed developed a passion for music at an early age. Living across the street from a nightclub he would hear the bands playing live every night and knew then that was what he wanted to do for a living.
His first guitar was made from an old cigar box and given to him by one of the musicians at the club when he was just six. In his teens his father bought him his first real guitar and his future was decided.
Christened Leon Atkins, Lil Jimmy Reed got his stage name from one of his heroes.
“There was a very well known musician at the time called Jimmy Reed and I just loved his music,” he said. “He was due to play with this band and a got a call asking me if I could go on stage as Jimmy had had too much to drink.
“As I arrived at the front door of the club they were carrying him out of the back.
“I’ll never forget it. The band didn’t even know I was going to play with them but I knew all his songs and they just counted me in and we did the show.
“I never did get to meet Jimmy Reed but he remained my idol and I played with his band.
Although music was his first love Lil Jimmy Reed – the Lil comes from the name of his home town – decided he needed a ‘proper’ career and spent 20 years in the army before returning to music full time.
Since then he has performed with some of the biggest names in the business.
“I’m really looking forward to coming to Colne,” he said. “I try and come over the UK every year and it’s really different from the US. I think in the States people have become used to the blues and don’t pay much attention to it whereas in Europe fans still love their music and understand it.”
Having been a guitarist and singer for close on 70 years Jimmy has a novel way of keeping his skills fresh: “I don’t have time to practise. I play every day at one of 12 nursery homes close to where I live. I do an hour show at one of them every day for the residents when I’m home. And when I’m not playing I’m always writing songs.”
Although Jimmy has played all over the world one person who has not seem him perform is his wife Imogene.
“No, she has never heard me play,” he said. “She’s a very religious woman and goes to church regularly. She does her thing and lets me do mine. It seems to have worked pretty well as we’ve been together for 38 years!”
- Lil Jimmy Reed, Colne Muni Saturday, August 24. Details from the box office on 01282 661234
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