100 Greatest Men: #64. Jerry Reed

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

A first class singer, songwriter, and musician, Jerry Reed’s talents ran far deeper than his tongue-in-cheek persona might have indicated.

Born and raised in Georgia, Reed played guitar from an early age. Music brought him comfort and structure during a childhood of instability. By the time he was out of high school, he was already signed to Capitol Records.   Though he released several singles over the next few years, it was his songwriting and guitar playing that first earned him notice.

Throughout the late fifties and the sixties, his songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, and others.  He also became an in-demand session guitarist, with a career highlight being the sessions he played with Presley, who feel in love with Reed when he heard his 1967 single, “Guitar Man.”

A strong working relationship with Chet Atkins led to a contract with RCA and further raised Reed’s profile.  By the late sixties, Reed was getting critical notice for his own records.   He had his big breakthrough in 1970, when “Amos Moses” became a gold-selling pop and country hit.   In 1971, ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” became his first #1 country single and another big pop hit.

Throughout the seventies, Reed matched popular singles and albums with high profile media exposure.  He was a regular on Glen Campbell’s television show, and he appeared in several films.   His greatest notoriety came as Cledus Snow in the wildly popular Smokey and the Bandit film series.   “East Bound and Down” was recorded for the soundtrack of the first film, and became one of his biggest hits.

Reed’s recording career had a second wind when he released the 1982 album The Man with the Golden Thumb.   Often rated as his strongest studio album, it featured the classic hit “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).”  Reed quickly followed with the hit album, The Bird.  The title track had him mimicking both George Jones and Willie Nelson, and the album also featured a hit cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Down on the Corner.”

The nineties brought a fun collaboration with Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Waylon Jennings, a live album dubbed Old Dogs.   Reed also starred as the coach in the box office smash, The Waterboy.    Illness sidelined him as he aged, and he passed away in 2008 due to complications caused by emphyzema.

Essential Singles:

  • Guitar Man, 1967
  • Amos Moses, 1970
  • When You’re Hot, You’re Hot, 1971
  • Lord, Mr. Ford, 1973
  • East Bound and Down, 1977
  • She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft), 1982

Essential Albums:

  • The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed, 1967
  • Nashville Underground, 1968
  • Me & Chet (with Chet Atkins), 1972
  • Lord Mr. Ford, 1973
  • The Man with the Golden Thumb, 1982

Next: #63. Clint Black

Previous: #65. Asleep at the Wheel

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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7 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #64. Jerry Reed

  1. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Re. Jerry and Elvis–Jerry’s guitar work can also be heard on a couple of Elvis’ other vastly underrated 1967-68 songs: “Big Boss Man” (the Jimmy Reed [no relation] blues classic); Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business”; and Jerry’s own “U.S. Male”, which got up to #28 on the Hot 100 in May 1968.

  2. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    There are those, Chet Atkins among them, who regarded Jerry as the greatest guitar player in the world. I’m not sure that I disagree as there are many fine pickers out there, but I am sure that there aren’t (and weren’t)any who are better than Jerry. I think his diffuse talents and film personality tended to distract from an appreciation of just how good he was.

    As a recording artist, his biggest sellers weren’t necessaily his best albums. I can think of at least five albums I like better than the ones you listed as essential – and the five you list as essential do live up to that billing – completely

  3. I quite enjoy Jerry Reed’s music and I know his guitar playing has a lot to do with it.

  4. bobNo Gravatar

    I didn’t know it at the the time, but the first Jerry Reed song I ever heard was Brenda Lee’s “That’s All You Gotta Do”, solely written by Reed. Although I never thought of him as a songwriter, according to BMI he wrote 320 songs. Sometimes they show his name as Jerry Reed Hubbard or just Jerry Hubbard. He didn’t write one of my favorites, “She Got the Goldmine”. It was written by James Timothy DuBois.

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  6. mrsandydogNo Gravatar

    “I didn’t know it at the the time, but the first Jerry Reed song I ever heard was Brenda Lee’s “That’s All You Gotta Do”, solely written by Reed.” And, for me, the first Reed song I heard was Johnny Cash’s 1950s-something recording of “If the Good Lord’s Willing.” Hard to believe their paths crossed as early as 1956 or so! Many years later, Cash recorded Reed’s “A Thing Called Love.” Another well known Reed composition was Porter Wagoner’s “Misery Loves Company”

  7. Motown MikeNo Gravatar

    Brad Paisley should be taking notes from “She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft)” when it comes to writing clever, cute, fun and or pun-ey songs. That song right there is the template for novelty songs.