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Persistence with Lil Jimmy Reed (How to Become an Overnight Success at 70)

Persistence with Lil Jimmy Reed (How to Become an Overnight Success at 70)
May 02, 2018

Sir Winston Churchill, the wartime leader, was once asked to speak at an end of term school prize-giving. Typically these speeches lasted anything up to one and a half hours.


But when Churchill was introduced by the headmaster, he walked to the end of the stage, paused, looked at the pupils and said, very slowly,


"Never... never... never… never, give in."  


He then turned around and made his way back to his seat.


Ten years ago an old Alabama blues musician came into my life. He stayed with my family and played a gig with us in our small town on his first trip to Europe. Since that first visit, he has stayed with us a couple of more times.


His name is Lil Jimmy Reed.


The Story of The Legendary Lil Jimmy Reed


You can find his performances on Youtube. My son Stephen and I went to visit Jimmy and his family in Enterprise, Alabama a couple of years ago. When I first met Jimmy he was already in his early 70’s.




Jimmy is touring Europe again this year. If one person lives the ethos of never giving in it is my friend Jimmy. He was born in Louisiana in the late 30's. I once interviewed him for a magazine and asked him to give me an example of how bad racism was in the southern states. I couldn’t have prepared myself for the story he told.


In the early 60's, Jimmy’s band was one of the first black groups to play in an all-white club. And as you can imagine, a few of the good ol' boys took exception to this. One of the men went out to his truck, grabbed a stick of dynamite and threw the lit stick onto the stage where Jimmy was playing.


Horrified, I  asked if anyone had been hurt. Jimmy was quite relaxed and said, "Na, not really."


Even his first visit to Europe was muddied by injustice. Jimmy’s inaugural trip across the Atlantic ended in disappointment when he discovered that the agent who’d promised him the bright lights of the European festival circuit, had also promised himself 60% of Jimmy’s fee.


Jimmy, however, is not easily put off. His persistence paid off and he returned to Europe shortly afterwards and began touring there. And he’s been thrilling audiences at bigger and bigger music festivals across Europe, and all over the world, ever since.


We can all take inspiration from Lil Jimmy Reed (and the late Sir Winston Churchill) and:


‘Never… never… never… never, give in.’


Sandy and Jimmy share the stage on a trip to Scotland


Where is Lil Jimmy Reed?


You can find Jimmy along with a list of his UK and international tour dates at - I highly recommend it!


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