‘You Don’t Have To Go’: R&B Ace Jimmy Reed Makes The Scene

The first appearance on the R&B countdown of the Mississippi blues original came on March 5, 1955.

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Jimmy Reed artwork - Courtesy: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Jimmy Reed - Photo: Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

America’s Rhythm & Blues charts of March 5, 1955 marked a red letter day for the blues. In particular, they recorded a significant moment in the career one of the genre’s real heavyweights of the 50s and 60s, with the first appearance on the countdown of Mississippi original Jimmy Reed.

Posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 for his immense influence on future generations of blues-rockers, Reed had been paying his dues down south for many years by the time of his breakthrough on Vee-Jay Records. He was raised in the Delta, and after serving in the US Navy while still a teenager towards the end of World War II, worked for a time in a meat-packing plant.

Making the familiar exodus to Chicago in 1953, he sang in local bands and on street corners, but when Vee-Jay signed him, Reed and his trio swiftly hit paydirt. The Best Sellers In Stores chart in the Rhythm & Blues Records section of Billboard for that week in March 1955 had the typically gritty, ultra-bluesy “You Don’t Have To Go” as a new entry at No.13. The track, credited to Jimmy Reed and his Trio, also bowed on Most Played In Juke Boxes, at No.10.

You Don’t Have To Go

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“You Don’t Have To Go” went on to peak at No.5, in a ten-week run that set Reed on an almost unbroken sequence of chart appearances that stretched for six years, all the way to 1961. That included no fewer than nine more Top 10 hits from 17 entries, followed by two more modest hits in 1965-66. “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” “Bright Lights Big City,” and more. Everyone from Elvis to the Stones was listening, as the legacy of Jimmy Reed grew and grew.

Buy or stream “You Don’t Have To Go” on Mr. Luck: The Complete Vee-Jay Singles.



  1. ima hogg

    March 5, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    i heard that he once farted so loudly in the studio that it can be heard on the actual track. Can you tell me the track?

  2. Michi Kaputnik

    March 5, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    He was one of the first artists to play all the instruments in a recording. Late in his career, his wife would sit next to him at the piano whispering the lines to his songs. He was my 1st influence in listening to the blues. Before I listen to him. I was into R&B groups. But Jimmy Reed, open my ears & Heart to the Blues…

  3. Richard

    March 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    In 1971 my first cousin’s husband, from Mississippi, turned me on to Jimmy Reed while we split a six pack on the back porch. Been hooked on Jimmy’s blues ever since.

  4. James wilson

    March 5, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    You forgot to mention he was the first black cross over attist at one time 14 out of 16 of his songs was in the bill board 100 and they were for pop not rythem and blues

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