Leon Atkins was born in Hardwood, Louisiana in July 14, 1938 and started playing guitar and harmonica at an early age. He had a lucky break one night at an upscale blues club. The famous blues artist Jimmy Reed was scheduled to perform that evening. Atkins knew Jimmy Reed’s music well from childhood, listening to jukebox music from a nearby nightclub. He had always wanted to see the real Jimmy Reed and thought he’d finally get the chance. Instead, Leon was asked to take Jimmy Reed’s place! As he recalls, Mr. Reed had obviously gotten drunk. “They snuck him out back and came and got me,” Leon remembers clearly. “Mr. Reed was just too drunk to play.” The crowd couldn’t tell the difference, and the show was a hit. Leon gave a show-stopping performance, and thus was born “Lil’ Jimmy Reed.”
For his day job, Leon served as an administrator in the US Army and was moved to Ft. Rucker in 1986 where he has made Enterprise, Alabama his home since 1986. After serving twenty years in the Army in administration, he retired in 1992 and fulfilled his life-long dream of being a full-time blues entertainer. In 1995, Lil’ Jimmy Reed was honored to receive the Alabama Blues Treasure Award. He has also played with: Bobby Blue Bland, Ike Turner, Clarence Carter, and Tabby Thomas and has released two critically-acclaimed full-length albums, School’s Out (1995) and Blues in Paradise (2015).
Lil’ Jimmy Reed has had terrific success playing on the U.S. West Coast and also abroad in Germany, Sweden, Ireland, UK, Israel, and Lebanon. Working with his manager/keyboard player, Bob Hall, and bass player Hillary Hall, Lil’ Jimmy Reed has had the opportunity to perform his music to thousands of fans worldwide. In the city of Beirut, he played for a festival audience of over 50,000 people. He states “When the plane was landing, all the building were tore up. But that night of the festival, over 50,000 people were in the stadium! Now that shocked me.” His upcoming tour plans include playing in Russia. Lil’ Jimmy Reed continues to thrill audiences both here in the States and abroad with his engaging stage presence and masterful playing and singing.