Reed was born in Wardell, Missouri but grew up in southern Illinois. He moved to Chicago during World War II, playing with Earl Hooker and Willie Mabon in the 1940s. He toured with Dennis "Long Man" Binder in 1956, and did extensive work as a sideman for Mel London's blues record labels in the 1960s, with Lillian Offitt and Ricky Allen, among others. He had a regionally popular single in 1961 with "This Little Voice", and cut several more singles over the course of the decade.
He became a member of Buddy Guy's band in 1967, playing with him on his tour of Africa in 1969 and, with Junior Wells, opening for The Rolling Stones in 1970. He remained with Guy until 1977, then played with Son Seals and Albert Collins in the late 1970s and 1980s. He began recording solo material for Alligator Records in the 1980s. He played in Chicago with his band, The Spark Plugs, until he died of cancer in 2004.