Brought up in the north east of England, Rea's first love was blues, a genre which textured much of his work; including even his biggest pop hit, Fool (If You Think It's Over) from his 1978 Gus Dudgeon-produced debut album Whatever Happened To Benny Santini? The title referred to the stage name he used in various local bands and the track paradoxically became a big hit in the US but not the UK. However, his intense performances established a staunch European following and the 1989 album The Road To Hell proved his biggest success. A complex, darkly alluring collection, the album went to Number 1 in the UK and included two of his most famous songs, Texas and Daytona. Rea nearly died in 2001 after contracting pancreatitis, an experience that inspired a return to his blues roots with the album Dancing Down The Stony Road, the 2005 boxed set Blue Guitars and the launch of his own label JazzeeBlue. Rea also works under the names Memphis Fireflies and The Delmonts.