Jerry Reed Hubbard (March 20, 1937 – September 1, 2008), known professionally as Jerry Reed, was an American country music singer, innovative guitarist, songwriter, and actor who appeared in more than a dozen films. His signature songs included "Guitar Man," "A Thing Called Love," "Alabama Wild Man," "Amos Moses", "When You're Hot, You're Hot" (which garnered a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance), "Ko-Ko Joe", "Lord, Mr. Ford", "East Bound and Down" (the theme song for the 1977 blockbuster Smokey and the Bandit, in which Reed co-starred), "The Bird," and "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)".
Reed was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the second child of Robert and Cynthia Hubbard. Reed's grandparents lived in Rockmart, GA and he would visit them from time to time. He was quoted as saying as a small child, while running around strumming his guitar, "I am gonna be a star. I'm gonna go to Nashville and be a star." Reed's parents separated four months after his birth, and he and his sister spent seven years in foster homes or orphanages. Reed was reunited with his mother and stepfather in 1944. Music and impromptu performances helped ease the stressful times the new family was under.
By high school, Reed was already writing and singing music, having picked up the guitar as a child. At age 18, he was signed by publisher and record producer Bill Lowery to cut his first record, "If the Good Lord's Willing and the Creek Don't Rise." At Capitol Records, he recorded both country and rockabilly singles to little notice, until label mate Gene Vincent covered his "Crazy Legs" in 1958. By 1958, Lowery signed Reed to his National Recording Corporation, and he recorded for NRC as both artist and as a member of the staff band, which included other NRC artists Joe South and Ray Stevens.
Reed married Priscilla "Prissy" Mitchell in 1959. They had two daughters, Charlotte Elaine "Lottie" Reed Stewart, and Seidina Ann Reed Hinesley, born April 2, 1960. Priscilla Mitchell was a member of folk group the Appalachians ("Bony Moronie," 1963), and was co-credited with Roy Drusky on the 1965 Country #1 "Yes Mr. Peters."
In 1959, Reed hit the Billboard "Bubbling Under The Top 100" and Cashbox Country chart with the single "Soldier's Joy." After serving two years in the military, Reed moved to Nashville in 1961 to continue his songwriting career, which had continued to gather steam while he was in the armed forces, thanks to Brenda Lee's 1960 cover of his "That's All You Got to Do." He also became a popular session and tour guitarist. In 1962, he scored some success with the singles "Goodnight Irene" (as by Jerry Reed & the Hully Girlies, featuring a female vocal group) and "Hully Gully Guitar," which found their way to Chet Atkins, who produced Reed's 1965 "If I Don't Live Up to It."
In July 1967, Reed had his best showing so far on the country charts (#53) with his self-penned "Guitar Man," which Elvis Presley soon covered. Reed's next single was "Tupelo Mississippi Flash," a comic tribute to Presley. Recorded on September 1, the song became his first Top 20 hit, going to #15 on the chart. In a remarkable twist of fate, Elvis came to Nashville to record nine days later on September 10, 1967, and one of the songs he became especially excited about was "Guitar Man."
Reed recalled how he was tracked down to play on the Elvis session: "I was out on the Cumberland River fishing, and I got a call from Felton Jarvis (then Presley's producer). He said, 'Elvis is down here. We've been trying to cut 'Guitar Man' all day long. He wants it to sound like it sounded on your album.' I finally told him, 'Well, if you want it to sound like that, you're going have to get me in there to play guitar, because these guys (you're using in the studio) are straight pickers. I pick with my fingers and tune that guitar up all weird kind of ways.'"
Jarvis hired Reed to play on the session. "I hit that intro, and [Elvis'] face lit up and here we went. Then after he got through that, he cut [my] "U.S. Male" at the same session. I was toppin' cotton, son." Reed also played the guitar for Elvis Presley's "Big Boss Man" (1967), recorded in the same session.
Bass singer Ray Walker of The Jordanaires remembered that memorable session more vividly, remarking that Reed flubbed the intro to "Guitar Man" repeatedly as a result of being extremely nervous. Walker also remembered the guitarist telling Presley, "God, you're handsome!"
On January 15 and 16th, 1968, Reed worked on a second Presley session, during which he played guitar on a cover of Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business", "Stay Away" and "Goin' Home" (two songs revolving around Elvis' film Stay Away, Joe),as well as another Reed composition, "U.S. Male" (Reed's quoted recollection of "U.S. Male" being recorded at the same session as "Guitar Man" being incorrect).
Elvis also recorded two other Reed compositions: "A Thing Called Love" in May 1971 and "Talk About The Good Times" in December 1973 for a total of four.
Johnny Cash would also release "A Thing Called Love" as a single in 1971, which would reach #2 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart for North America. It was also successful in Europe. It would become the title track for a studio album that he released the following spring.
After releasing the 1970 crossover hit "Amos Moses", a hybrid of rock, country, funk, and Cajun styles, which reached No. 8 on the U.S. pop charts, Reed teamed with Atkins for the duet LP Me & Jerry. During the 1970 television season, he was a regular on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and in 1971 he issued his biggest hit, the chart-topper "When You're Hot, You're Hot", which is a story song, with the majority of the lyrics being rapped rather than sung. The song concerns the singer's near success shooting dice, a police raid and a judge who is supposedly a fishing buddy of the singer, but who nevertheless sends him down for gambling.
"When You're Hot, You're Hot" was the title track of Jerry's first solo album, reaching #9 Pop and #6 on Billboard's Easy Listening charts. The singles from the album, "Amos Moses" and "When You're Hot, You're Hot" sold over one million copies, and were awarded gold discs by the R.I.A.A. The album also features songs such as Reed's version of "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", and John D Loudermilk's free wheeling song, "Big Daddy (Alabami Bound)".
A second collaboration with Atkins, Me & Chet, followed in 1972, as did a series of Top 40 singles, which alternated between frenetic, straightforward country offerings and more pop-flavored, countrypolitan material. A year later, he scored his second number one single with "Lord, Mr. Ford" (written by Dick Feller), from the album of the same name.
Atkins, who frequently produced Reed's music, remarked that he had to encourage Reed to put instrumental numbers on his own albums, as Reed always considered himself more of a songwriter than a player. Atkins, however, thought Reed was a better fingerstyle player than he himself was; Reed, according to Atkins, helped him work out the fingerpicking for one of Atkins' biggest hits, "Yakety Axe." Reed, one of only four people to have the title of "Certified Guitar Player" (an award only bestowed to those who have completely mastered guitar), was given this title by Chet Atkins.
Reed was featured in animated form in a December 9, 1972 episode of Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby-Doo Movies, "The Phantom of the Country Music Hall" (prod. #61-10). He sang and played the song "Pretty Mary Sunlight." The song is played throughout the episode as Scooby and the gang search for Reed's missing guitar.
In the mid-1970s, Reed's recording career began to take a back seat to his acting aspirations. In 1974, he co-starred with his close friend Burt Reynolds in the film W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings. While he continued to record throughout the decade, his greatest visibility was as a motion picture star, almost always in tandem with headliner Reynolds; after 1976's Gator, Reed appeared in 1978's High Ballin and 1979's Hot Stuff. He also co-starred in all three of the Smokey and the Bandit films; the first, which premiered in 1977, landed Reed a Number 2 hit with the soundtrack's "East Bound and Down."
Reed also took a stab at hosting a TV variety show, filming two episodes of The Jerry Reed Show in 1976. The show featured music performances and interview segments, but did not contain the comedy skits that usually were a part of variety shows of the '70s. Guests included Tammy Wynette, Ray Stevens, and Burt Reynolds.
Scottish rockers The Sensational Alex Harvey Band released a version of "Amos Moses" in 1976.
In 1978, he appeared as himself in the television show Alice.
In 1979, he released a record comprising both vocal and instrumental selections titled, appropriately enough, Half & Half. It was followed one year later by Jerry Reed Sings Jim Croce, a tribute to the late singer/songwriter. He starred in a TV movie in that year entitled The Concrete Cowboys.
In 1982, Reed's career as a singles artist was revitalized by the chart-topping hit "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)," followed by "The Bird," which peaked at Number 2. His last chart hit, "I'm a Slave," appeared in 1983. That same year, he co-starred with Robin Williams and Walter Matthau in the Michael Ritchie comedy The Survivors. Reed guest-starred in the October 13, 1983 episode of Mama's Family, "The Return of Leonard Oates" (Episode 13, Season 2), as Naomi Harper's ex-husband Leonard Oates.
After an unsuccessful 1986 LP, Lookin' at You, Reed focused on touring until 1992, when he and Atkins reunited for the album Sneakin' Around before he again returned to the road. In the meantime, Reed appeared in several interviews and commercial spots for Mid-South Wrestling.
Reed had a role as a Commander/Huey Pilot for Danny Glover's character in the 1988 movie Bat*21 starring Gene Hackman. He also acted as executive producer and screenwriter on this film.
Reed starred in the 1998 Adam Sandler film, The Waterboy, as Red Beaulieu, the movie's chief antagonist and the head coach for the University of Louisiana Cougars football team.
He teamed up with country superstars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, and Bobby Bare in the group Old Dogs. They recorded one album, in 1998, entitled Old Dogs, with songs written by Shel Silverstein. (Reed sang lead on "Young Man's Job" and "Elvis Has Left The Building," the latter possibly in deference to Elvis' helping launch his career.)
In 1998, the American rock band Primus covered the Reed song "Amos Moses" on the EP entitled Rhinoplasty.
In October 2004, "Amos Moses" was featured on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack, playing on fictional radio station K-ROSE. His last recording was released in 2006, named Let's Git It On. In 2007, UK band Alabama 3 (Known as A3 in the USA) covered his hit "Amos Moses" on their album M.O.R.
In June 2005, American guitarist Eric Johnson released his album Bloom, which contained a track entitled "Tribute To Jerry Reed" in commemoration of his works.
Reed has appeared as a guest on the fishing television series Bill Dance Outdoors. In one memorable appearance, Reed caught a particularly big largemouth bass and planned to have it preserved and mounted by a taxidermist. Host Bill Dance objected to this plan, and freed the fish when Jerry wasn't looking. Reed became enraged when he discovered what had happened, and chased Dance off the boat and to shore. This incident was also mentioned in one of Jeff Foxworthy's standup comedy routines. The song "Eastbound and Down" made a rather impressive setting in the movie Delta Farce, starring Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall, and DJ Qualls.
"She Got The Goldmine" was used in the 2010 film, The Bounty Hunter during the scene where Milo (Gerard Butler) searches Nicole's (Jennifer Aniston) apartment.
Reed died in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 1, 2008, of complications from emphysema. The Associated Press wire service and CNN, however, reported the date of his death as August 31. In a tribute in Vintage Guitar Magazine, Rich Kienzle wrote that "Reed set a standard that inspires fingerstyle players the way Merle and Chet inspired him. Reed died on Conway Twitty's birthday."