Lula Reed:Staying With It ©1999JCMarion
Lula Reed first came to prominence in late 1951 with a King Records recording of "I'll Drown In My Own Tears" with the Sonny Thompson combo. The flip side was "Clang Clang Clang" and it was released on #4527 and hit the R & B charts during March of 1952. Three years later Ray Charles would have a huge hit with the song on the 'A' side, "Tears". In June of 1952 King follows the initial record release with #4541, again with Sonny Thompson as Lula would be paired with for most of her career. The songs were "Blue Mambo" an instrumental, and "Let's Call It A Day" with a great vocal by Reed. In November, Lula and the Sonny Thompson combo are a big draw in the Midwest, especially Chicago and Minneapolis. Near the end of the year, King #4578 is released and the tunes are "Let Me Be Your Love", and "My Story". The 'A' side of the disc, "Let Me Be" sells well in Texas and New Orleans through early 1953.
In February, King #4595 is issued pairing an instrumental version of "Chloe" by Sonny Thompson, and a Lula Reed vocal on the tune "Late Last Night". In June Reed does the vocals on both sides of King #4630 - "I'm Losing You" and "My Poor Heart". In July King releases #4639 once again pairing an instrumental - "Love Flame", with a vocal featuring Reed - "Waiting To Be Loved By You". Lula Reed continues to tour parts of the United States with the Sonny Thompson band, and in September King #4649 pairs the songs "Going Back To Mexico" and "Don't Make Me Love You". At the end of the month Lula and Sonny Thompson are featured with the 'World Series of the Blues' touring show along with Roy Milton and his band featuring Camille Howard, Little Willie Littlefield, Tiny Bradshaw, and many others.
In 1954 the King release #4688 - "Watch Dog" and "Your Key Don't Fit It No More" starts fast and sells well in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest. "Watchdog" is fast becoming the top seller in the career of Lula Reed. In April King #4703 is released - "Bump On A Log" and "Troubles In My Mind". Soon after the record is out, Lula and Sonny Thompson go on tour that covers the Northeast and the Midwest. In May King #4714 - "Just Whisper" and "If The Sun Isn't Shining In Your Window" is out featuring backing vocals by The Teeners as Lula and Sonny reload and go back out on the road to Los Angeles and the Southern California area. In late summer King releases #4762 - "Not For Sale" and "I'll Upset You Baby". The Reed-Thompson show draws well in Southern California. The last record of the year by Lula is #4748 - "Jealous Love" and "Sick And Tired".
In late January of 1955, "Rock Love" (later done by Little Willie John) is paired with "I'm Gone, Yes I'm Gone". At about that time Reed and Thompson play their last date in California at the 5-4 Ballroom, and are joined by the legendary Roy Eldridge. In may King #4796 is issued - "Caught Me When My Love Was Down" and "Without Love (Ain't It A Shame)". In late August a tour is booked featuring Sonny Thompson's Combo, Lula Reed, The Champions, and blues singer Paul Tate. The tour will cover the South and Southwest and run through the end of the year. King releases #4811 with Lula again backed by The Teeners - "Why Don't You Come On Home" and "I'm Giving All My Love".
After some time off at the end of the tour, the same bill heads out on the road again, this time to do one nighters up and down the Pacific Coast states. King releases #4969 - "Three Men" and "Simple Man". Later in the year King #4996 - "Every Second" and "Waste No More Tears". Record sales and airtime evaporate as Reed's records fail to make much of a mark on the sales charts. King ends the long association with Reed and Thompson and they move to Chess Records in June of 1957. Soon after Lula Reed embarks on a big ten week tour of the Midwestern states with The Five Satins, Gene & Eunice, The Coasters, and of course Sonny Thompson & his band. The tour then extends to the West coast for the rest of the year. "Give Me The Right" and "Anything To Say You're Mine" recorded by Lula with The Teeners, is released on Argo #5298 in 1958. The tune "Anything" does well in the Midwest and introduces Reed's name to many new listeners. However a try at a followup does not repeat the success. In 1959 "Come On Home" and "He's My Everything" is released on Argo #5333. In mid 1959 a tour called "Record Stars On Parade" hits the road in the Midwest featuring Dave "Baby" Cortez and The Moonglows, with Sonny and Lula starting off in Chicago. Nothing further transpires on Argo and a year later she returned to King, this time on the Federal label. Reed recorded some R & B duets with blues singer and guitarist Freddy King in 1962 and then moved on to Ray Charles' Tangerine label in 1964 before she faded from the recording scene.
That then, is the story of Lula Reed who remained a vital performer on the R & B scene for more than a decade during the most formative years of the development of America's music. Though she had no big hits and opened no new paths to success, Reed was an important part of the story that is so seldom told. She remains another footnote to the re-invention of America;s popular music.
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