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Great stories of American Blues & Roots artists, based in Michigan, as documented and told by the author, musician, and Michigan native, Fred Reif, as he traveled the world and collaborated with amazing musicians who put a stamp in the music culture we know today. 

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Sometimes, the seemingly most insignificant gestures can lead to life-enhancing events . . .


That’s what happened over 50 years ago when I met Fred Reif. We were five young strangers who came together to form a ‘Jug Band’ for a few laughs at some parties . . . or, hopefully, get a gig at the new and growing ‘Coffee House; venues where Folk Music was usually featured.


We presented Fred with a washboard and told him he had been tagged as the Official Washboard Player of “The Original Low Classed, Half-Fast, Jug & Blues Band”. 


I loaned him some record albums of old Folk & Blues artists to get a feel for the sound we were pursuing. Fred returned to the next rehearsal session with a “spark in his eye & a skip in his step.”  He was hooked on the Blues! …and the Blues became a career passion. 


Over the following decades, Fred traveled hundreds of thousands of miles promoting, encouraging, befriending, and supporting traditional Blues artists. Many of these important figures in America’s musical heritage were struggling and all but forgotten.

Fred became their advocate & friend. I watched first hand as Fred ‘rediscovered’ recording legend Lightnin’ Slim (Otis Hicks) in a tough neighborhood in southern Michigan.


A couple of years later, I had the honor of performing in the backup band for Lightnin’ in a music festival in England, sharing the bill with Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, and others. Fred’s dedication and hard work had restored Lightnin Slim’s career . . . and launched his own.


In the years ahead, Fred and his ever-present washboard would restore & inspire the careers of many important Blues artists in America, Europe & the Caribbean.


This current volume is a reflection of some of the many interesting people, places, and events that have been part of the serendipitous life and legacy of my dear friend, Fred Reif.                                                              

- John Tunnoch Gilmour
Fred Reif Author, Musician, Saginaw, MI.

Fred Reif

Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Musician, manager, writer, researcher, publisher, and collector of American roots music. Re-discovered many American blues musicians. Written for a number of Blues publications, worldwide. A world-renowned washboard player.

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