Jerry Reed Biography

Jerry Hubbard, 20 March 1937, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Reed has had three distinct careers: as a respected country guitarist, as a composer and singer of clever pop country hits, and as a genial, jokey television personality and film actor.

A cotton-mill worker, Reed was one of many youths brought up on country music who played rockabilly in the mid-50s. His own records for Capitol Records were unsuccessful but Reed’s songs were taken up by Gene Vincent (‘Crazy Legs’) and Brenda Lee. After army service, Reed moved to Nashville, working as a session guitarist and achieving minor hits with ‘Hully Gully Guitars’ and the traditional ‘Goodnight Irene’. He also wrote songs for Porter Wagoner (‘Misery Loves Company’) and Johnny Cash (‘A Thing Called Love’). Reed’s skill at the finger-picking guitar style was showcased on two duet albums with Chet Atkins in the 70s; Atkins also produced Reed’s albums and singles.

Reed’s career gathered momentum after he signed a recording contract with RCA Records in 1965. Two years later he recorded the boastful ‘Guitar Man’ and ‘U.S. Male’, both of which were covered successfully by Elvis Presley in 1968. Reed had two big US pop hits in 1971 with the swamp rock-styled ‘Amos Moses’ and ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot’ (based on his television catchphrase), but his continuing popularity was with country audiences; the latter was a US country chart number 1 for five weeks. Another country number 1 followed with ‘Lord Mr Ford’ in 1973, a humorous attack on the cost of running a car in the 70s. During the late 70s Reed was less successful, but he returned to prominence with the recording of the Tim DuBois song ‘She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft)’ for RCA in 1982. Produced by Rick Hall, it was a country number 1. In 1998, Reed, along with other veteran artists Waylon Jennings, Bobby Bare and Mel Tillis formed the Old Dogs for a single recording session. The result produced a self-titled album released on Atlantic Records.

Reed became well known to television viewers with appearances on Glen Campbell’s show in the early 70s. This led to cameo roles in several Burt Reynolds movies, including W.W. And The Dixie Dancekings (1975), Gator (1976), and the highly popular Smokey And The Bandit series (playing the memorable character Cledus Snow). In 1999 he underwent major surgery for a triple heart bypass. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005. Reed died of complications from Emphysema in 2008 at age 71.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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