Born: 1950 in McComb, MS
The nominal frontman of the Austin, Texas-based swamp-rock unit Omar & the Howlers, singer/guitarist Omar Dykes was born in McComb, Mississippi in 1950 (not coincidentally also the birthplace of Bo Diddley, whose signature beat informed much of Dykes' music as well). Weaned on his mother's eclectic collection of country, rock & roll and soul records, he began venturing into area juke joints during his early teen years, and upon learning the guitar returned to these same clubs to launch his performing career. After graduating high school, Dykes wandered about Mississippi for a few years before finally relocating to Austin in 1976; there he was befriended by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and a short time later set about forming the Howlers, who made their debut in 1980 with Big Leg Beat. After 1984's I Told You So, the group signed to Columbia for 1987's Hard Times in the Land of Plenty; although their major-label tenure was short-lived, Omar & the Howlers remained an Austin fixture throughout the years to come, also attracting a large European cult audience.
- Jason Ankeny (All Music Guide)
The Jimmy Reed Highway is a well-traveled thoroughfare as storied and rich in legend throughout the southern United States as Robert Johnson's mythical Crossroads. It runs through the minds of men and women of a certain age, complexion, and place who grew up during the era of segregation and who defied their parents, the law, and all genteel propriety and custom by answering one bluesman's invitation to cross the color line and join him getting lowdown and dirty as he serenaded a generation from the bandstand, on jukeboxes, and through the radio.
To them, the slurred guttural sound of a wise man singing "Hush, Hush," putting down the "Big Boss Man" or advising the listener to "Take Out Some Insurance" before they behold the "Bright Lights, Big City" was a siren's call they had no choice but to answer. Even if they tried, they couldn't resist the steady, dirty rhythm punctuated by the twanging sting of an electric guitar note and the sweet wail of a harmonica. And when they leaned in close, they could even hear the barely perceptible sound of a woman's voice whispering forgotten lyrics into an ear.
Ain't nobody can do Jimmy Reed like Jimmy Reed could. But this drive down Jimmy Reed Highway with fellow Mississippian Kent "Omar" Dykes at the wheel with Jimmie Vaughan (older brother of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughan) riding shotgun and folks like, Kim Wilson, Miss Lou Ann Barton, James Cotton, Delbert McClinton, and Gary Clark, Jr., joining the duo, comes mighty close. As Omar guns the engine and peels rubber on the two-lane blacktop lined with no-good women, empty whiskey bottles, too many cigarette butts and bad intentions, he leaves John Law trailing behind eating his dust. Hop in for a ride and turn up the volume. The electric bluesman who shaped the minds and moves of a musical generation is alive and well.
- Joe Nick Patoski