Big Boss Man (song)

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"Big Boss Man"
Single by Jimmy Reed
from the album Found Love
B-side"I'm a Love You"
ReleasedApril 1961 (1961-04)
Format7-inch 45 rpm record
RecordedChicago, March 29, 1960
Songwriter(s)Luther Dixon, Al Smith
Jimmy Reed singles chronology
"Close Together"
"Big Boss Man"
"Bright Lights, Big City"

"Big Boss Man" is a blues song first recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1960. Unlike his most popular songs, the songwriting is credited to Luther Dixon and Al Smith. It was a hit for Reed and has been interpreted and recorded by a variety of artists, including Elvis Presley and B.B. King, who had record chart successes with the song.

Original song[edit]

Rate Your Music, top singles 1961

"Big Boss Man" is an uptempo twelve-bar blues shuffle that features "one of the most influential Reed grooves of all time".[1] It is credited to Jimmy Reed's manager, Al Smith, and Vee-Jay Records staff writer Luther Dixon. The song is one of the few Reed hits that was written by someone other than Reed and his wife. Backing Reed, who sang and played harmonica and guitar, are Mamma Reed on vocal, Lee Baker and Lefty Bates on guitars, Willie Dixon on bass, and Earl Phillips on drums.

"Big Boss Man" was originally released on Jimmy Reed's 1960 album Found Love. In 1961, it was released as a single and reached number 13 on the Billboard R&B chart and number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.[2]

Elvis Presley renditions[edit]

On September 10, 1967, Elvis Presley recorded a version of "Big Boss Man". It was issued as a single the same month and reached number 38 on the pop chart. He performed the song as part of a medley during the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special, which also appears in the award-winning mini-series Elvis. During the 1970s, Presley often performed the song in concert.


In 1990, the song was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame[3] and included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".[4]

Recordings by other artists[edit]

"Big Boss Man", as with several Jimmy Reed songs, has appeal across popular music genres.[5] A variety of artists have recorded the song, including:[5] The Pretty Things as a B-side to their debut single "Rosalyn" (1964); The Standells as the B-side to their single "Don't Say Goodbye" (1965)[6]; Charlie Rich as the title track of his album Big Boss Man (1965) and also Boss Man (1970); Jerry Lee Lewis from his album Memphis Beat (1966);[7] Syndicate of Sound, who opened their album Little Girl (1966) with their version;[8] Bill Cosby from Silver Throat: Bill Cosby Sings (1967); Bobbie Gentry from The Delta Sweete (1968); Nancy Sinatra from her album "Nancy" (1969), Grateful Dead from Grateful Dead (1971); B.B. King from Six Silver Strings (1985), and as a single which reached #62 in the R&B chart; Steve Miller Band from Living in the 20th Century (1986); Joe "Guitar" Hughes from "Down & Depressed" (1993); Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers from Playback (1995); Eddie Cusic on his 1998 album, I Want to Boogie,[9] released by HighTone Records;[10] Thee Headcoatees on their album Have Love Will Travel (1992); Junior Reid from the film Office Space (1999); and The Kentucky Headhunters from Big Boss Man (2005). Steve Miller


  1. ^ Koda, Cub (2000). The Very Best of Jimmy Reed (CD notes). Jimmy Reed. Los Angeles: Rhino Records. p. 14. R2 79802.
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research. p. 346. ISBN 0-89820-068-7.
  3. ^ O'Neal, Jim (November 10, 2016). "1990 Hall of Fame Inductees: Big Boss Man — Jimmy Reed (Vee-Jay, 1960)". The Blues Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
  4. ^ "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 1995. Archived from the original on 2007-05-02. Retrieved July 9, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Koda, Cub. "Big Boss Man – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  6. ^ "The Standells - Don't Say Goodbye". Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  7. ^ Bruce Eder. "Memphis Beat - Jerry Lee Lewis | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  8. ^ Koda, Cub. "Little Girl - The Syndicate of Sound | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved July 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Koda, Cub (July 14, 1998). "I Want to Boogie - Eddie Cusic | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  10. ^ "Eddie Cusic: Mississippi Folklife and Folk Artist Directory". 1926-01-04. Retrieved August 13, 2015.