Born Jerry Reed Hubbard, 20 March 1937, Atlanta, Georgia
Died 31 August 2008, Brentwood, Tennessee

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and movie actor Jerry Reed was a legendary figure in the field of country and rockabilly music, a one-of-a-kind good ole boy that they just don't make anymore. But his success didn't come quickly, nor easily.

Reed's parents separated four months after his birth in 1937 and he and his sister spent seven years in foster homes or orphanages. He was reunited with his mother and stepfather in 1944. At the age of nine Jerry became the proud owner of his first guitar. By high school, he was already writing and singing music. He dropped out of school in the tenth grade and took a job working at a cotton mill in his hometown of Atlanta. At weekends he could be seen performing with a band called Kenny Lee and the Western Playboys, who were represented by Bill Lowery, Atlanta's music mogul. Lowery secured Reed a job as a disc jockey at WGST and in 1955, he got him signed to the Capitol label. His first single for the company, released in November 1955, was "If the Good Lord's Willing (And the Creeks Don't Rise)"/"Here I Am". Reed's work for Capitol (1955-58) is a nice mixture of honky tonk country, rockabilly and fifties pop. Ten singles were released, all recorded in Nash- ville with the A-Team, under the supervision of Ken Nelson, but nothing charted. His more rocking songs include "When I Found You", "I've Had Enough" and "Mister Whiz". Fellow Capitol artist Gene Vincent recorded his composition "Crazy Legs" in 1956. When Jerry's Capitol contract ran out, Lowery signed him to his own NRC label. Apart from cutting his own records, Reed became a member of the NRC studio staff band, alongside Ray Stevens, Joe South and two others. His career was interrupted by military service (1959-61), but he kept writing songs and Brenda Lee had a # 6 pop hit with his "That's All You Gotta Do" in 1960. It was his first big success as a writer and earned an additional royalty boost as the flip of "I'm Sorry".

After his demob in 1961 Reed landed a Columbia contract, but his success proved only marginally better there than at Capitol. His version of "Good Night Irene" went to # 79 (pop) in mid-1962 and the instrumental "Hully Gully Guitar" spent one week at # 99, but these records did not reflect the direction Reed wanted to go. He started sending demos of his guitar instru- mentals to Chet Atkins at RCA. Chet would record many of Reed's songs and later he recorded three albums with him. Meanwhile, Jerry started to do more and more session work as a guitarist and moved to Nashville. Atkins signed Reed to RCA in 1965 and encouraged him to follow his own creative path. In 1967 Jerry finally saw his first album release. The LP "The Unbelievable Guitar And Voice Of Jerry Reed" revealed a true musical original. It included the songs "Guitar Man" and "U.S. Male", both of which were successfully picked up by Elvis Presley (# 43 and # 28 resp.) and Reed was invited to play guitar on Elvis's sessions, at least on these two tracks. Jerry's second RCA LP, "Nashville Underground" (1968), included his first country hit, "Tupelo Mississippi Flash" (# 15) and what is perhaps his most enduring song, "A Thing Called Love", which Johnny Cash took to # 2 on the country charts in 1972.

Persistence paid off and in 1970 Jerry finally achieved the popular success that had eluded him for so long. "Amos Moses" was a # 8 pop hit that year, followed in the Top 10 by the Grammy-winning "When You're Hot, You're Hot" (1971), which also topped the country charts for five weeks. Five more modest pop hits on RCA (1972-74) and 37 Top Forty country hits (1970-83) kept him in the limelight. "Lord, Mr. Ford" (1973) and "She Got the Gold- mine (I Got the Shaft)" (1982) also topped the country charts. Jerry Reed has appeared in 14 movies (almost always in tandem with Burt Reynolds), starting with "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings" (1975). He had a role in all three "Smokey and the Bandit" films and usually portrayed good humoured Southern type characters.

By 1984 Reed was off RCA. He directed one of the films he starred in, and co-produced another one, with dismal box-office results. In 1992 he was reunited with Chet Atkins for the instrumental CD "Sneakin' Around" on Columbia. In 1998 he was one of the four "Old Dogs", a country supergroup composed of Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare and Jerry Reed. They recorded a self-titled studio album for Atlantic that year. Reed was in poor health after undergoing a quadruple bypass in 1999 and died from the ongoing effects of emphysema at his home in Brentwood, TN, just before midnight on August 31st, 2008.

His guitar playing was highly individual. When asked how he achieved his distinctive sound, Jerry once said, "I use an open G flat-finger tuning with gut strings, because it leaves my left hand free to move around and boogie woogie. I call it my claw style".

More info :

Book : Michael S. Stevens, Reedology : A Jerry Reed Reference Guide (2013). Self-published. 528 pages.

Recommended CD's :
- Here I Am (Bear Family BCD 16306, 1999). Complete Capitol recordings (1955-58), including some previously unreleased tracks. Annotated by Dave Samuelson. 30 tracks.
- Guitar Man (Camden 74321 415002). 22 RCA recordings, 1967-1982. Released 1996. Compiled and annotated by Jed Taylor. Or :
- When You're Hot ... The Very Best Of 1967-1983. (Raven, Australia, 2009). 28 tracks.

Discography :

Acknowledgements : Dave Samuelson, Thomas Goldsmith, Stuart Colman, Wikipedia.

YouTube :
When I Found You :
Mister Whiz :
Guitar Man :
U.S. Male :
Tupelo Mississippi Flash :
Amos Moses :
When You're Hot, You're Hot :
A Thing Called Love (live) :
She Got the Goldmine (live) :
The Claw (with Chet Atkins) :

Dik, January 2014

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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