If there ever was a blues theme for the proletariat, it was Jimmy Reed’s 1961 smash, Big Boss Man. ‘You got me workin’, boss man, workin’ ’round the clock, I want me a drink of water but you won’t let Jimmy stop,’ Reed sang, but the refrain asserted ‘You ain’t so big, you’re just tall, that’s all.’ The song was built on a familiar Jimmy Reed blues structure, but unlike most of Reed’s hits, Jimmy, who would himself become known as ‘The Big Boss Man’ didn’t write it. The writers’ credits went to Reed’s manager, Al Smith, and composer Luther Dixon. Vee-Jay kept the recording on the shelf for a year but when it finally saw release, it became a hit on both the pop and rhythm & blues charts and inspired a multitude of cover versions not just by blues artists but by the likes of Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty as well.

Jimmy Reed, vocal; Mary Lee ‘Mama’ Reed, vocal; Lee Baker (Lonnie Brooks) and Lefty Bates, guitars; Willie Dixon, bass; Earl Phillips, drums. Recorded March 29, 1960, Chicago. Released as Vee-Jay 380 (45 rpm).

Discographical details from The Blues Discography 1943-1970.

— Jim O’Neal