Pianist Eddie Boyd created one of the biggest hits of 1952 by adapting the pounding industrial rhythms he heard at the Harris-Hub Bed & Spring factory, where he toiled daily, into his hard-bitten blues Five Long Years.
Born November 25, 1914 in Coahoma County, Mississippi, Boyd spent his childhood in the heart of the Delta before heading for Memphis at age 14. He played some ivories on Beale Street, his main influences Leroy Carr and Roosevelt Sykes, before migrating to Chicago in 1941. Eddie gigged with Johnny Shines and Sonny Boy Williamson and made his first appearance on wax backing Sonny Boy in 1945, also doing studio work with Tampa Red, Jazz Gillum, and a post-stroke Big Maceo. Lester Melrose christened him Little Eddie Boyd when he began producing the pianist for RCA Victor in 1947, the handle persisting as long as he was on RCA.
Boyd made 78s for Regal and Herald prior to financing the Five Long Years session on June 30, 1951 at Morris Webb's studio in Chicago. The sublime L.C. McKinley contributed lead guitar, Ernest Cotton was on sax, and the rhythm section consisted of bassist Alfred Elkins and drummer Percy Walker. Boyd took his masters and placed them with Joe Brown's J.O.B. logo. Five Long Years flew to #1 for seven long weeks in late '52. But Brown was less than generous with royalties, so Boyd hooked up with Chicago's top deejay, Al Benson.
Instead of producing Eddie himself, Benson surreptitiously sold his contract to Leonard Chess, which issued his 1953 hits 24 Hours and Third Degree. Eddie wasn't happy at Chess, claiming the firm reneged on his money, but he remained there into 1957. He landed at Cadillac Baby's Bea & Baby imprint in 1960, later bouncing from label to label until he toured Europe in 1965.
Boyd was so thrilled to escape the racism and hassles he encountered back home that he permanently emigrated overseas. He settled in Finland in 1971 and lived there quite comfortably, still musically active, until he died on July 13, 1994.