Little Jimmy Reed packs the Landin’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Little Jimmy Reed packed the house Saturday night at Lighterd Knot Landin’ in downtown Opp, as he picked and sang a mess of blues for more than two and a half hours before leaving to a standing ovation.

Little Jimmy Reed drew a good crowd Saturday at the OCAC event. Photo courtesy of Precision Image

Folks 18 to 80 and from all walks of life came from miles around for the entertainment. They all shared one thing in common – the blues.

Little Jimmy, whose given name is Leon Atkins, grew up in the poverty-stricken South during difficult times, just outside Baton Rouge in Hardwood, La.

“I’ll be going end of the month back home to see my momma,” Atkins said. “ I have a show in Natchez, (Miss.,) and I’ll go a couple days early,” he said with a smile. “Momma’s still living. She’s 93. I’ll be 73 my next birthday.”

It was in those hard times that Atkins found his passion playing and singing the blues, hanging around the clubs in the Delta and impersonating blues legends like Jimmy Reed. Leon, who doesn’t drink, got his lucky break one night in the Delta, and went on for an intoxicated Jimmy Reed, with Reed’s band backing him.

The crowd never knew the difference and thus was born Little Jimmy Reed.

“Big Boss Man,” “School is Out,” and “I’m a Fool for You, Baby” were just a few of the recognizable blues songs Little Jimmy Reed played and sung. There was little talk in between with this serious musician who gets right down to business, but the few stories he told delighted as well.

Reed, who has entertained crowds of more than 50,000 in Beirut, Lebannon, and has spent several summers in Scotland, Paris and Sweden, told of his recent trip to Iowa for a festival where he was asked to do “Blues in the Schools.”

He said he went to play an hour for an all-white school, and the little kids wanted to ask a lot of questions.

“One little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Mr. Reed can I feel your afro?’” Reed laughed as the teachers hid their faces in embarrassment. “Why, you sure can,” he told her. She felt his afro and exclaimed “Wow!”

“They were dancing in the aisles,” said Wes Laird, whose committee heads up the music venue for the Opp Cultural Arts Council. “When Jimmy broke into his own version of Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT, folks just couldn’t stay seated.”

This was only the second musical headline event for the Arts Council at the new venue, but it was a rousing success.

“Our goal is to bring quality acts, from folk and singer-songwriters to blues and bluegrass to Opp, and we are off to a good start,” Laird said.

Lighterd Knot Landin’ will host “Pickers and Grinners” this Thursday at 7 p.m., and singer songwriter night on Thurs., April 28, at 7 p.m. for those who want to show off their original material.

The next main event will be some of the finest in modern bluegrass, Shades Mountain Air, from Birmingham, on Sat., May 14, at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $15 and will be on sale at OCAC and Southern Independent Bank in Opp.