Artist of the Week: Eli Paperboy Reed

Music back in the 60’s made it really easy to get a date for the sockhop. Just slip your sweetheart a record containing “My Girl” or “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, and you’d pretty much be guaranteed a steamy window at makeout point. Besides the romantic connotations, this was music that helped make strides in the political system and race relations during a time when “separate, but equal” was still a fresh wound. That’s why some consider this era the “Golden Age of Music” and the genre was named appropriately. Everyone snapped their fingers and imitated the Temptations slide cause these artists sang notes that spoke to the soul.

Luckily for future generations, trends work in cycles and what was old suddenly becomes new again. The soul revival got a major boost in recent years by pouring glasses of Winehouse and saluting Queen Sharon and the Dap-Kings, but the latest delivery comes from Eli “Paperboy” Reed, a blue eyed crooner who channels the bellows of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. His 2008 release, Roll With You, is equipped with a full company of horns that can either act as Tesla coils (as in the high voltage number “The Satisfier”) or a box of Kleenex (for the somber tearjerker “Am I Just Fooling Myself”). For the record, they’re called The True Loves (which leads me to the conclusion that backing bands always have the coolest names), a group that has morphed over the years containing high school buddies, old friends and friends of band members.

If you walked through Boston’s Harvard Square near the turn of the century, chances are that you helped Reed make a living at the spry age of sixteen. His summer job at the time was to play guitar and harmonica with friends who manned drums and a washboard, and they would busk for four hours a day to make a living. After high school, he didn’t see college in his future so he got in touch with an acquaintance who was planning on re-starting an old radio station called WORX in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Soon after he arrived the rejuvenation plans fell apart, but Reed decided to stick around and soak up as much soul and blues from local musicians as he could. Not only did he learn how to work crowds, but he also picked up his nickname “Paperboy” due to an old newsboy hat he used to wear that was passed down to him from his grandfather.

With crowds now flocking to his shows for his boisterous antics (and a couple ripped pants or three), Reed is poised to take his music to the next level having just signed a major label deal with Virgin Records and a new album is due this Fall. There will be no more pocket change for this Paperboy.


Jul 24 2009 at Fuji Rock Festival @ Naeba Ski Resort in Niiagata, Japan
Jul 25 2009 at Fuji Rock Festival @ Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata, Japan

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– Phillip Nguyen


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