Jerry Reed – Guitar Genius – Musical Comedian

jerry 1

In the late 50’s – early 60’s, Jerry Reed was a songwriter, a famous songwriter. So many of the songs he wrote and recorded became #1 hits for other people. Yet when he played them, they didn’t get far.

Thanks to Brenda Lee’s cover of his song, All You Gotta Do, his name was kept alive while he did a 2-year tenure in the armed forces from 59-61. Nashville was waiting for Jerry Reed to write more hit songs.

All You Gotta Do – Brenda Lee written by Jerry Reed

Jerry was known among the music community as a genius, whose un-taught hands almost played on their own. His style was completely unique and full of emotion. Butch Baker, a close friend of his said “He had this style called ‘the claw,’ ” and noting that Mr. Reed, who had no formal musical training, also made a record by that name. “I’m not sure if anybody knew what he was doing — I don’t even think he knew what he was doing — he would just do these emotional things that came out through his hands. He was a true innovator.’”

When Elvis Presley wanted to cover Jerry’s song Guitar Man, he tracked Jerry down in the middle of a 3 day fishing trip. Unshaven, Jerry walked into Graceland and said, “I was a wreck, but Elvis was about the prettiest thing I ever did see.”

Elvis Presley was so impressed with Jerry’s guitar playing that he had him play the guitar on that album and his next.

Guitar Man – Elvis Presley written by Jerry Reed

Jerry Reed wrote more songs recorded by Elvis Presley than any other songwriter.

The thing about Jerry Reed was, he was a stand-up guy. All he wanted was to play music. And apparently to keep moving. Described by Burt Reynolds as “So hyper he can thread a sewing machine while standing still.”
It’s no surprise that an NBC crewman said  “Where Reed is, there’s electricity! He’s like a 300-watt bulb in a room full of 60-watt lamps. You can feel it. He buzzes!”
Even Jerry knew he was a taut wire ready to go, “I talk about taking a rest, but I thrive on it. I stop a week and I’m going crazy. I see a bus of musicians going down the road and wonder why I’m not with them.”

Guess that’s how he got so much done. I guess that’s why he wrote over 400 songs, and recorded over 48 albums. Well, 48 that were his, there were countless others made by artists who demanded Jerry Reed as their lead guitar, not the least of which were Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell and Chet Atkins.

jerry snowman

Jerry Reed was known to me as “Snowman” before I knew he sang those songs I love. Heck I didn’t even know his name. He was just, “Snowman.”

I didn’t know that he wrote When You’re Hot, You’re Hot, I basically just knew East Bound and Down, the theme song from Smokey and the Bandit.

Then as I got older I realized I knew a lot of his songs, I just didn’t know they were his.

Chet Atkins once told Jerry Reed he needed to stop writing for other people, and start writing those funny songs he loved so much. I think we can all be thankful that Chet pushed him, because Jerry’s catalog of song’s with silly lyrics can keep me in happy music for weeks.

When Jerry Reed and Chet Atkins got together, now that was a whole different story. That is when Jerry Reed’s talent really shined. Man did he shine. And he wrote all the music. His Genius. The guy who wrote She Got The Goldmine (I Got The Shaft), among folks who know true country, will go down as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Forget the songwriting, forget the silly lyrics. He was a virtuoso, het taught himself to play guitar on a $7 used guitar when he was 8-years-old. If ever a man was given a gift, it was Jerry Reed. I believe he was one of the most under-appreciated musicians of our recent past. I would like to change that in my own little way. So if you can listen to these songs without feeling all smiley inside, you drop me a line. If not, spread the word.

Jerry Reed left us too young. He died in 2008 at 71 years-old of emphysema. A true marvel of the music industry, he stayed happily married to the same woman for 49 years and raised two “normal” daughters. He died not of a drug overdose, or liver poisoning, he died from those insidious cigarettes. Jerry Reed quit smoking in the late 70’s but those cigarettes still took his life. So he made this little sitcom/movie to try and encourage others to quit in his own Jerry Reed way. If you’ve got a few minutes to kill (see what I did there?) watch and be amused.

 

Jen Kehl is the Music Director of her universe. She created Raised on the Radio after she realized her missed callings in life, were actual jobs – Boss of Music or Radio DJ. Now Raised on the Radio helps her live her dream. Since Woody Allen lives in her mind, there is the possibility he may be attempting to escape through music, don’t mind him, he’s harmless. 

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