Hal Reed – 2020 Inductee

Born in Sardis, Mississippi, Hal Reed has held residency in the Quad Cities/Iowa for over 30 years. During that time, he has performed countless blues shows throughout the state and volunteered to teach students across Iowa about the history of Blues music.

Hal is known for his outstanding leadership in raising awareness about the artform of the Blues. He has participated in Blues education programs through the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the River Music Experience, making a substantial impact on preserving the history of the music.

Hal has dedicated most of his life to educating those around him about the original Delta style of Blues that he grew up with. Hal was mostly influenced by his grandfather, a talented southern folk-blues artist who, in addition to inspiring young Hal’s love for the blues, taught him the need to pass it on from generation to generation.

Using this influence, Hal teaches Blues classes about the history of the music. In his Blues-In-The-Schools classes, Hal describes the concept of field hollers, the development of the music along the Mississippi River, and how it landed at a crossroads between Iowa and Illinois. He has volunteered to teach these classes in over 50 schools across Iowa, making sure the message is presented as a result of his experiences and understanding of the music history.

For over 20 years, Hal has given his time to the annual Winter Blues Camp programs held at the River Music Experience in Davenport, Iowa. These classes have allowed him to spend one week (per year) of intense training with a group of musicians from 8-18 years old. The program features vocal and instrumental workshops (guitar, bass, harmonica, keyboards and drums), as well as a concentration on Blues composition and improvisation. Hal uses this opportunity to demonstrate harmonica techniques and the importance of the “mouth harp” in Blues music – incorporating history of different harmonica styles, pre-war rural Blues harmonica, the rise of amplified Blues harmonica, and modern Blues.

Hal strives to utilize every available “pulpit” in his efforts to raise awareness about Blues music and is deeply committed to and involved in the preservation of Blue in Iowa. Hal exemplifies the virtue of generosity and has volunteered many years with the Mississippi Valley Blues Society. He has served in multiple capacities including the Board of Directors, the Education Committee (currently), and the Entertainment Committee that chooses the performers for the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival.

Because of these efforts, Hal has earned not only the award for the 2006 Mississippi Valley Blues Society “Outstanding Volunteer of the Year”, but also the respect and gratitude of those for whom and with whom he serves.

As a professional musician, Hal performs with a band and in a solo/duo act an average of 3-4 times a month throughout Iowa. Hal’s recent performances include a fundraiser for Marriage and Family Counselors, Flatted Fifth (Bellevue), End of Summer Motorcycle Festival (Fairfield), Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, and at the Winter Blues Fest (Des Moines).

Hal is a two-time winner of the Iowa Blues Challenge. In 2004 he was a winner in the band category and in 2019 in the solo/duo category. In 2018, he was inducted into the Quad City Blues Hall of Fame.

Hal has taken the initiative to help preserve Blues. Through performances and educational programs, Hal’s efforts have kept the Blues music vibrant in the Mississippi Valley and across the State of Iowa. He has identified a need to protect the history of the Blues and continues to play, serve, and educate in a way that meets this need. His work will have a lasting influence on the preservation of Blues music.