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SCOTT SIMON, host:

In the 1950s, there was no bluesman more popular than Jimmy Reed, playing guitar and harmonica with his childhood friend Eddie Taylor, laying down the beat on the bass strings of his guitar. Jimmy Reed had a slew of hits on the pop and R&B charts, songs like "You Don't Have to Go," "Hush Hush," "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Big Boss Man."

(Soundbite song, "Big Boss Man")

Mr. JIMMY REED (Blues Singer): (Singing) Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call? Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call? Well, you ain't so big. You're just tall, that's all.

SIMON: The music was as straightforward as a grab. And it didn't let you go. Delightfully nasty, wrote one reviewer. Jimmy Reed's tunes were covered by The Grateful Dead, Elvis and the Stones.

Jimmy Reed died in 1976 from complications of alcoholism and epilepsy. He was 51. Now, a couple of Texas bluesman are paying tribute to the musician with the new CD, "On the Jimmy Reed Highway."

(Soundbite of song, "Big Boss Man")

Mr. OMAR KENT DYKES (Singer): (Singing) Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call? Big boss man, can't you hear me when I call?

SIMON: Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan join us from the studios of member station KUT in Austin to talk about their new album.

Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JIMMIE VAUGHAN (Guitarist): Thank you. Thank you. It's good to be here.

Mr. DYKES: Thank you. Our pleasure.

SIMON: And I gather Jimmy Reed was important to both of you. But I want to begin talking to you about this, Mr. Dykes, and help us understand. You're from Mississippi, I guess, as was Jimmy Reed. What was it like to grow up in Mississippi and first hear Jimmy Reed?

Mr. DYKES: Well, being a kid and hearing Jimmy Reed was just like the blueprint for my life, you know. I was thinking if I could play a guitar and get the, you know, the thump going and sing some Jimmy Reed songs, I didn't really identify "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Big Boss Man" with Jimmy Reed at first because I just heard the songs and love the songs. And the more I've searched it out, more of it I found, and the better I liked it.

SIMON: When you talk about if I can get that thump going, how do you describe that thump?

Mr. DYKES: Well, I can show you.

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. DYKES: Some people call it the lump guitar.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DYKES: I call it the Mississippi thump.

Mr. VAUGHAN: That's really the first thing that I learned on the guitar, was that thing. Although I didn't do it right, but I was doing like this. I was going...

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. VAUGHAN: Trying to figure out what it was. I had it backwards, but it was...

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. VAUGHAN: And that's a huge deal in American music. I mean, that's in pop music.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. VAUGHAN: All of the '50s and '60s. They still use it on everything. It's in rock 'n' roll. It's in everywhere. As far as I can tell, Eddie Taylor and Jimmy Reed, you know, made that up, basically.

SIMON: You gentlemen have been kind enough to bring your instruments with you, as we've heard. And I wonder if we could get you now to play the medley from the album, "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Bright Lights, Big City."

Mr. DYKES: We can do it.

Mr. VAUGHAN: Alrighty.

(Soundbite of medley, "Baby What You Want Me To Do/Bright Lights, Big City")

Mr. DYKES and Mr. VAUGHAN: (Singing) You got me running, you got me hiding. You got me run, hide, hide, run, anyway you wanna let it roll. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got me doin' what you want me. Baby, why do you wanna let go? We're goin' up, I'm goin' down. I'm goin up, down, down, up, anyway you wanna let it roll. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got me doin' what you want me. Baby, why do you wanna let go?

(Singing) Bright lights, big city, I've went to my baby's head. Bright lights, big city, I've went to my baby's head. You know, I love you darling but you didn't hear a thing I said.

(Singing) You got me speaking. You got me peeping. You got me speak, peek, peek, speak, anyway you want to let it roll. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you got me doin' what you want me. Baby, why do you wanna let go?

SIMON: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Now, that was you, Mr. Dykes, on the harmonica, right?

Mr. DYKES: Yes.

SIMON: On the album - on this album, for example, Jimmie Vaughan, your old band mate from The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kim Wilson, plays the harmonica. Is that correct?

Mr. VAUGHAN: Yeah, that's right.

SIMON: And also, of course, James Cotton, Delbert McClinton and Lou Ann Barton are on this album. Tell me about those recording sessions.

Mr. VAUGHAN: Well, you know, it was just so much fun. We got in there and it just - it was like a gravy sandwich. You know what I mean? It was smooth.

SIMON: How long were you in the studio?

Mr. DYKES: Well, the other day, and we were afraid to quit because it felt so good and we came back and it was just like it was the day before it. We're riding the groove.

SIMON: Well, let's hear a little more of the groove, okay? Let's hear "Good Lover." And, this is Lou Ann Barton on vocals.

(Soundbite of song, "Good Lover")

Ms. LOU ANN BARTON (Singer): (Singing) Well, you know, I want to mention in the dabbling rain a big fat car and everything, and I'm a natural good lover. I'm a natural good lover. Well, now, tell me baby (unintelligible) which one of us would you love.

SIMON: Mr. Vaughan.

Mr. VAUGHAN: Yes. Yes?

SIMON: Now, I'm told that you and Lou Ann Barton were in Antone's there in Austin. Was it 1976...

Mr. VAUGHAN: Right.

SIMON): ...hear one of Jimmy Reed's last performances?

Mr. VAUGHAN: Yeah. When they got up on stage, I mean, everybody almost fell over with the first note. It was just fabulous. And Jimmy Reed said, ladies and gentlemen, it's a stone pleasure to be here before you. And then he did the...

(Soundbite of guitar playing)

Mr. VAUGHAN: And when he went into that, I mean, I got chill bumps now. I'm thinking about my hair stood up from the back of my neck. And I'll never forget his shoes. He had the greatest shoes on you'd ever seen - these cream and tan, tweed loafers. And we were all just, like, staring at his shoes and trying to figure out what we're going to say to him, you know. What do you say to Jimmy Reed?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: You have a couple of songs on this album, Mr. Dykes, right? The only ones that aren't by Jimmy Reed.

Mr. DYKES: Yes, sir, I do.

SIMON: And tell us about the one, "Jimmy Reed Highway."

Mr. DYKES: Well, "Jimmy Reed Highway" was, you know, just kind of a great story of my life, growing up, you know, 12 years old, finally discovering Jimmy Reed and finding out about how great Eddie Taylor was and another disciple was Lazy Lester. We heard them playing the Louisiana version of Jimmy Reed, you know, and then, later on, the Stones and Elvis.

I remember seeing Elvis on this comeback special, you know, sitting on stage playing "Baby What You Want Me To Do." I was a big Jimmy Reed fan. And that's what the last verses is about Elvis and the Stones(ph).

SIMON: Well, can we hear this song?

Mr. DYKES: I bet we can do it.

Mr. VAUGHAN: All right.

SIMON: Thank you. Okay. Please.

(Soundbite of song, "Jimmy Reed Highway")

Mr. DYKES: (Singing) I was 12 years old when I got (unintelligible) for you. Bright lights, big city, baby, what do you want me to do? You got me dizzy. Now, I'll sing the blues.

Mr. DYKES and Mr. VAUGHAN: (Singing) But down the Jimmy Reed highway, that's where I'll play. Down the Jimmy Reed highway, your way is my way. The big boss man is still a man today.

Mr. DYKES: (Singing) A slimmer(ph) of hope, I learned so much from you. Light and slim, I thank(ph) you too. Eddie Taylor, he knew just what to do.

Mr. DYKES and Mr. VAUGHAN: (Singing) But down the Jimmy Reed highway, that's where I'll play. Down the Jimmy Reed highway, your way is my way. Big boss man is still the man today.

Mr. DYKES: (Singing) Jimmy's fans don't take (unintelligible). Everybody picks up on that tip. Check out some insurance. Baby, let it real.

Mr. DYKES and Mr. VAUGHAN: (Singing) But down the Jimmy Reed Highway, that's where I'll play. Down the Jimmy Reed Highway, your way is my way. The big boss man is still the man today.

SIMON: Gentlemen, thanks so much.

Mr. DYKES: Thank you.

SIMON: It's been a stone pleasure to talk to both of you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. VAUGHAN: That's good. That's a good one.

SIMON: Thank you.

Omar Kent Dykes and Jimmie Vaughan. Their new album is called "On The Jimmy Reed Highway."

(Soundbite of song, "Baby What You Want Me to Do")

Mr. REED: (Singing) You got me hiding. You got me peep, hide, hide, peep, anyway you wanna let it roll.

SIMON: And you can discover more music by Jimmy Reed and his devoted followers at npr.org/music.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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