Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Elvis Presley, “Guitar Man”

“Guitar Man”

Elvis Presley

Written by Jerry Reed

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 13, 1981


#1 (1 week)

March 14, 1981

It was approaching four years after his death when Elvis Presley topped the country charts for a final time.

He’d been a steady presence already in the seventies, earning a top ten hit with “Hurt” in the year before his death.  But once he passed, he scored several posthumous number one singles.  “Guitar Man” had originally been recorded in the late sixties, but was remixed and released as the lead single and title track of an album meant to coincide with This is Elvis, a documentary promoted in the inner sleeve of Guitar Man.

Jerry Reed added a new guitar solo to the reworked “Guitar Man,” which featured Elvis’ original vocal but a mostly new instrumental track.  The original recording came from one of Presley’s most creative periods, and he turns in a loose and gritty vocal performance that could make you believe the most famous man in the world was a struggling musician looking for an opportunity to play his guitar somewhere.  The original version of the song is better, but the eighties revival is still pretty darn good.

Presley wouldn’t top the country charts again, but he would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, making him one of the few artists to be in both the Country and Rock Hall.

“Guitar Man” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. A little bit of info is in order here:

    Elvis originally recorded “Guitar Man” at RCA’s Nashville home offices in September 1967 during sessions where he also recorded, among other things, a version of bluesman Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man” and the 1964 Tommy Tucker R&B/blues classic “Hi-Heel Sneakers”. The original, with Jerry Reed (no relation to Jimmy Reed, by the way) on acoustic guitar, only got to #43 on the Hot 100 in February 1968. For the remix, Jerry came back in on electric guitar at producer Felton Jarvis’ request; and the result was this vintage (if posthumous) old-school track, which, in this remix, also got to #28 on the Hot 100 in March 1981.

  2. I loved this story song as a kid and still do today. There is so much urgency and excitement. Elvis sounds engaged and excited and Jerry Reed’s guitar playing is wild. The whole song snaps, crackles and pops!

    I had no idea this was released in the ’80s.

    It is easily one of my favourite songs by the King.

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