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L'il Jimmy Reed: Louisiana blues artist extraordinary is to be Jazz Festival's 30th anniversary guest

L'il Jimmy Reed (photo: You Tube)L'il Jimmy Reed (photo: You Tube)To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Marlborough Jazz Festival, the Marlborough Arts Association is bringing a special guest from Alabama.

Leon Atkins - known to all as L’il Jimmy Reed - has been described as 'the last of the great Louisiana blues artists.' He will perform at the Festival on Saturday, July 16.

Leon Atkins was born just outside Baton Rouge in the late 1930s. Growing up poor and black in the Deep South, he experienced the hardships and discrimination of the time.  Music was a way to escape the cycle of depression caused by grinding poverty.

One night in a blues club, he got his lucky break.  Jimmy Reed, the legendary Blues musician, was scheduled to perform. Leon had always wanted to see him. That night would change his life forever.

Jimmy Reed arrived drunk and Leon was asked to take his place. "They snuck him out back, and came and got me", Leon recalls clearly. "Mr Reed was just too drunk to play."  Leon gave a show stopping performance and so was born L'il Jimmy Reed.

He was awarded the Alabama Blues Treasure Award in 1995, named Blues Harmonica Player of the Year by the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2014.

He will be supported by Bob Hall (piano/mandolin/vocals), who has twice been voted Instrumentalist of the Year at the annual British Blues Festival, Hilary Blythe (bass/guitar/vocals) and a visiting drummer

"It’s great news for us," festival coordinator, Nick Fogg told Marlborough.News. "We’re getting one of the greatest exponents of a style of music that is under threat and of which the genuine article is rarely seen in this country."

"The reasons for this demise are obviously good.  It is the music of adversity, of poverty and of discrimination. As these have lessened, the need for such music has declined, although much of its influence has been felt elsewhere."

"Yet it is sad if such a haunting and rooted from of music should cease to be in its authentic form. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear it."

Tickets for the 30th Marlborough Jazz Festival can be bought online here or at the Box Office on the north side of the High Street.

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