Lost Tuneage: Terry Reid

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L-R: Waddy Wachtel, Keith Richards and Terry Reid

Who Dat?

Though unfortunately best known to rock trivia buffs for what he didn't do than for what he did, Terry Reid was (and is) an extremely well-regarded British blues-rock singer/guitarist. He began warbling as a toddler when his mother would perch him on a box to sing popular songs while she picked fruit.

He joined a school band, the Redbeats, and then Peter Jay's Jaywalkers, which issued the single "The Hand Don't Fit the Glove" in 1966. Under the tutelage of legendary producer Mickie Most, Reid was fronting his own power trio by the next year (before he turned 18) and issued the single "Better By Far."

However, Most wanted to push him into an MOR/adult contemporary performer and Reid - who favored the power sounds of Cream and the Stones - resisted mightily. His debut, Bang Bang, You're Terry Reid came out in 1968. Reportedly, Aretha Franklin once said "There are only three things happening in London: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Terry Reid." 

Raconteurs covering Reid's "Rich Kid Blues," live at Glastonbury 2008

What happened?

Reid had gotten friendly with Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, who was then putting together a new band and asked Reid to be the frontman. As he'd already committed to open for the Rolling Stones on their upcoming U.S. tour (and wanted to establish his solo career), Reid turned Page down - but not before he recommended a talented young singer he'd seen named Robert Plant... who also had this friend, John Bonham...

Then, shockingly (in retrospect) Reid also declined an invitation to be the new lead singer for Deep Purple. The job went to Ian Gillan, who then fronted the classic Mk II lineup. Reid did release his best effort, Terry Reid, in 1969, which featured a searing cover of "Stay With Me Baby" and Donovan's "Superlungs My Supergirl," and he had a heavy touring schedule.

However, Reid's inability to make an impact in the U.S. found him pinging around through most of the '70s. Records like River, Seed of Memory, and Rogue Waves failed to make in impact. By the next decade, he was doing mostly session work (Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt), and probably wracking his brain with "What If?" scenarios. His last studio record was 1992's The Driver.

Why should I care?

In a situation where a performer with great ability and talent never got his due, Reid might be one of classic rock's most egregious cases. Even outside the miffed chances with Zeppelin and Purple, factors including management conflicts, poor financial decisions, Reid's own reluctance about his fate, and inability to forge a distinct musical identity all seemed to coalesce around him to create a perfect career killer.

Still, his late '60s/early '70s tracks show he's adept at handling a breadth of music styles, all in his powerful and distinctive sandpaper-tinged voice.

Where is he now?

Reid is alive and will and living in California. He performs only sporadically, but old friends like Robert Plant (who is probably most thankful to him) and Keith Richards have dropped in on occasion to jam. In 2005, he returned to touring in the UK.

Shock-rock singer/film director Rob Zombie must be a fan, as he used three Reid numbers on his soundtrack for The Devil's Rejects.

Essential listening, viewing, Web surfing

Terry Reid (1969)

Superlungs (2005) - single-disc best-of anthology

"Rich Kid Blues" (original)

www.terryreid.com (official site)

www.terryreid.net (extensive fan site) - Bob Ruggiero

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