November 7th, 2015

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I remember listening to bluesman Jimmy Reed when I was playing in teen clubs. We were all learning and playing songs from his records. I am still playing and singing a few of his songs. There was something about Jimmy Reed that seemed to fit the new music called Rock and Roll even though he was singing blues. His music was simple and funky and we loved it!

Jimmy Reed was an American blues musician and songwriter, 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 music had a significant impact on many rock and roll artists who followed, such as Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Hank Williams, Jr, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Garcia and the Rolling Stones. He sure had an impact on me and most of my guitar playing friends who were playing in teen clubs.

When we turned 21, we started playing in former country music bars in southwest Detroit like Rose’s Bar, The Dixie Belle and The West Fort Tavern. The experience we got playing in the teen clubs enabled us to spread Rock and Roll to new audiences as bar owners realized their customers were ready for something new. I remember playing every Monday night at Rose’s Bar on Vernor in Southwest Detroit. I had a young singer by the name of Jimmy Fraser who could sing Jimmy Reed songs and play harmonica like Jimmy too. We had a great time! Jimmy was killed in a bad motor cycle accident shortly after we stopped playing at Rose’s. He was probably about 22 or 23. Bob Babbitt and I went to his funeral. Jimmy had a lot of style and people loved to hear him perform.

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Dennis Coffey