In the late 1960s, guitarist Jerry Reed (1937-2008) emerged from his background as a Nashville studio musician to become a solo recording artist in his own right. A protege of RCA Nashville producer Chet Atkins, Reed was a dynamic picker with a lively, popping style that was instantly recognizable and unique... As it turns out, his boisterous guitar playing was matched by his larger-than-life personality -- kind of like your too-loud, slightly drunk redneck uncle who keeps crashing your barbeque parties -- a personality that was equally unique and well-suited to making him a star. Reed also had a fun acting career, co-starring in the 1977 film, Smokey And The Bandit, and also writing the film's theme song, "East Bound And Down," which was one of Reed's big career hit. Here's a quick look at his work...
Jerry Reed "Here I Am" (Bear Family Records, 1999)
Jerry Reed's Nashville persona is so well-defined -- the ornery, gruff, humorous, good ole boy, RCA label superpicker -- that it's hard to connect these early efforts from the 'Fifties with his later stuff working with Chet Atkins. Although these long-neglected Capitol recordings are (apparently) highly prized by rockabilly collectors, it has to be said that as an Elvis-era rocker, Reed -- an intensely talented guitarist -- lacked the clumsy rawness that made the unknowns so charming, or the blistering passion that made kids like Ronnie Dawson so fun. There's an interesting mix of material-- teenpop, half-hot rockabilly, and tons of earnest (but uninspired) honkytonk, patterned after the likes of Ray Price and George Jones. According to the liner notes, Reed doesn't think that much of these teenaged recordings, and label producer Ken Nelson was reluctant to record such a young artist. Turns out they were both kinda right, though fans of Reed's later stuff might still want to check this out, just to see what he was up to back when he was a youngster.
Jerry Reed "The Essential" (RCA, 1995)
Reed was an RCA protege of Chet Atkins, or at least one of the more notable hotshot pickers to fill his shoes as the studio's house guitarist. His exaggeratedly plunky, cheerfully aggressive style complimented plenty of RCA's early '70s albums, and his solo records often had a lot more grit than the countrypolitan of the time. His hits tended towards half-recited novelty songs, and there are plenty of them on this disc. It's not earthshaking art, but it's kinda fun.
Jerry Reed "Guitar Man" (Camden International, 1997)
This best-of set has some of the big, best-known hits like "When You're Hot You're Hot," but also a lot of less frequently anthologized material... A nice compliment to one of the other single-disc sets out there.
Jerry Reed "RCA Country Legends" (Buddah Records, 2001)
As with the other discs in this series, this is an improvement on the early Essential collection (although Reed's volume was one of the better entries in that series...) Among other "new" tracks on this disc is his cover of Dick Feller's anti-automobile anthem, "Lord, Mr. Ford"; the instrumental track, "The Claw," is also a real dazzler. Recommended!
Jerry Reed "When You're Hot...The Very Best Of: 1967-1983" (Raven Records, 2009)
Jerry Reed "Alabama Wild Man" (RCA/BMG-Japan, 2008)
This twofer reissue CD includes 1968's Alabama Wild Man and Jerry Reed Explores Guitar Country, from 1969.
Jerry Reed "Better Things In Life/Cookin'" (RCA/BMG-Japan, 2008)
This CD includes Better Things In Life from 1969 and Cookin', from 1970...
Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins "Me & Jerry/Me & Chet" (RCA/BMG-Japan, 2008)
A CD twofer of two albums originally released in 1970 and '72.
Jerry Reed "When You're Hot, You're Hot/Ko-Ko Joe" (RCA/BMG-Japan, 2008)
Two albums from 1971: When You're Hot, You're Hot and Ko-Ko Joe
Jerry Reed "Smell The Flowers/Jerry Reed" (RCA, 1968)
Two more albums, both from 1972...
Jerry Reed "Georgia Sunshine/Oh, What A Woman!" (RCA, 1968)
This one includes Georgia Sunshine from 1970 and Oh, What A Woman! from '72...
Jerry Reed "Hot A'Mighty!/Lord, Mr. Ford" (RCA, 1968)
Two albums from 1973...
Jerry Reed "The Unbelievable Guitar And Voice Of Jerry Reed" (RCA, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
Reed's debut LP for RCA was a curious outing, with the label struggling to figure out how best to frame his talents, a process that would continue for years. The funny thing is that they had already nailed it, straight out of the gate, with sharp, funky uptempo tracks like "Guitar Man" and the dazzling, futuristic instrumental "The Claw," which was quite simply a jaw-dropping performance. Unfortunately, though, they felt obliged to alternate Reed's more vigorous tracks with a series of stilted, stuffy "Nashville Sound" country-pop ballads and pop-poetic numbers which may have been in tune with the times, but generally don't hold up that well, with hip-sounding album tracks such as "Long Gone" and "If It Comes To That" being notable exceptions. It's worth noting that all of the tracks were Jerry Reed originals -- the album title touts his strengths as picker and singer, but he was no slouch as a composer, either! Worth a spin, though the best tracks regularly pop up on best-of collections.
Jerry Reed "Nashville Underground" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
Jerry Reed "Alabama Wild Man" (RCA, 1968) (LP)
Jerry Reed "Better Things In Life" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Jerry Reed "Jerry Reed Explores Guitar Country" (RCA, 1969) (LP)
Jerry Reed "Georgia Sunshine" (RCA, 1970) (LP)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
This album, with Reed's usual mix of uptempo and softer material, yielded four Top 20 singles, the best-known of which, "Amos Moses," is frequently anthologized on best-of collections. It's the album tracks, though, that may be of most interest: the one real gem here is his laid-back, lazy rendition of Jimmie Rodgers' "Muleskinner Blues," where Reed and Atkins trade some sweet, tricky guitar licks -- a really nice track, and the gospel track, "Talk About The Good Times" ain't bad. There's also some real drek, like the syrupy, Barry White-ish ballad, "Dream Sweet Dreams About Me," sort of a Philly soul-wannabee track which is jaw-droppingly early-'70s bad. I'd also point out the novelty number "Ugly Woman," a funk tune about a guy who's tired of getting hung up on pretty gals, so he's going to try "ugly" ones instead... it might be worth checking out, depending on your level of tolerance for that specific stripe of un-PC humor. This disc is worth checking out, though most of it's negligible.
Jerry Reed "Cookin' " (RCA, 1970) (LP)
Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins "Me & Jerry" (RCA, 1970)
Jerry Reed "When You're Hot, You're Hot" (RCA, 1971)
Jerry Reed "Ko-Ko Joe" (RCA, 1971)
Jerry Reed "Smell The Flowers" (RCA, 1972)
Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins "Me & Chet" (RCA, 1972)
Jerry Reed "Oh, What A Woman!" (RCA, 1972)
Jerry Reed "The Best Of Jerry Reed" (RCA, 1972)
Jerry Reed "Jerry Reed" (RCA, 1972)
Jerry Reed "Hot A'Mighty!" (RCA, 1973)
Jerry Reed "Lord, Mr. Ford" (RCA, 1973)
Jerry Reed "The Uptown Poker Club" (RCA, 1973)
Jerry Reed "A Good Woman's Love" (RCA, 1974)
Jerry Reed "Mind Your Love" (RCA, 1975)
Jerry Reed "Red Hot Picker" (RCA, 1975)
Jerry Reed "Both Barrels" (RCA, 1976)
Jerry Reed "...Rides Again" (RCA, 1977)
Jerry Reed "East Bound And Down" (RCA, 1977)
Jerry Reed "Sweet Love Feelings" (RCA, 1978)
(Produced by Jerry Reed & Chip Young)
Hey, it's 1978 and not too surprisingly, Reed's experimenting with some disco-y touches on the title track and several other songs, mostly with pretty terrible results. Reed, who always had a pretty funky vibe, really gets in a groove on "Louisiana Lady" -- the album's lone worthwhile track -- but many songs are real bombs, like "You Know What," a disco-pop duet with his daughter, Seidina Hubbard, which is so lame it's the kind of song that mean-spirited crate-diggers (like me!) would use to make fun of '70s music. Or how about "I Feel For You," which also falls flat, and the particularly goopy, overinflated "Banjo Man." Reed also revives Red Lane's icky oldie, "The Courtroom" (here retitled "Reverend Joe Henry") which is a creepy, sexist song about a woman who falsely accuses a preacher of raping her, but the case gets thrown out when it is disclosed that the good Reverend "got so shot up back during the war/that he couldn't even take him a wife," and the naughty, lying little girl is duly reprimanded by the judge. Oh, well. Mostly, this isn't a great record, but kitsch connoisseurs can have a good time with the disco-era affectations. On the plus side, he took "I Love You (What Can I Say)" -- a Dick Feller composition -- into the Top Ten. It's a terrible version of the song, but I'm glad Feller got a big royalty check that week. Also worth noting: his wife, Priscilla, who recorded in the '60s as Priscilla Mitchell, also sings backup on some tracks here.
Jerry Reed "Half Singin' And Half Pickin' " (RCA, 1979)
But... which half is which?
Jerry Reed "Live -- Hot Stuff" (RCA, 1979)
Jerry Reed "...Sings Jim Croce" (RCA, 1980)
(Produced by Jerry Reed & Chip Young)
An odd album. On one hand, it's a good reminder of how skillful and popular Jim Croce was during his all-too-brief '60s-70s career... There's a tendency to only remember "Bad Bad Leroy Brown," or maybe to cringe at the thought of the saccharine specter of "Time In A Bottle," but this album revives several more well-crafted gems, including the country-tinged "One Less Set Of Footsteps," and others that will have a familiar tang to folks who remember '70s radio. What's weird, though, is Reed's approach to the music, which is sledgehammer unsubtle and a little too manic. I guess as a "kooky" artist, he felt he had an "in" through the novelty songs like "Carwash Blues" and "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," but his feel for the material is questionable and amped-up tempo makes a lot of them sound the same. It's worse with the soft songs, though -- painful, actually. I dunno... I guess this is worth checking out, but mostly it just made me want to go back and listen to Croce's originals.
Jerry Reed "Texas Bound And Flyin' " (RCA, 1980)
Jerry Reed "Dixie Dreams" (RCA, 1981)
Jerry Reed "The Man With The Golden Thumb" (RCA, 1982)
Jerry Reed "The Bird" (RCA, 1982)
Jerry Reed "Ready" (RCA, 1983)
Jerry Reed "What Comes Around" (Capitol Records, 1985)
Jerry Reed "Lookin' At You" (Capitol Records, 1986)
Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins "Sneakin' Around" (Columbia Records, 1991)
Jerry Reed "Flyin' High" (Southern Tracks, 1995)
Jerry Reed "Pickin' " (Southern Tracks, 1998)
Jerry Reed/Bobby Bare/Waylon Jennings/Mel Tillis "Old Dogs" (Atlantic Records, 1998)
A Highwaymen-esque summit meeting of Bobby Bare, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Reed, and M-M-Mel Tillis... Kind of a rowdy party record, or the best that these old coots could do in the direction... Worth checking out if you're a fan.
Jerry Reed "Finger Dancing" (R2K, 2000)
Jerry Reed "...Visits Hit Row" (R2K, 2000)
Jerry Reed & Chet Atkins "In Concert At The Bottom Line: June 22, 1992" (DVD) (Vestapol, 2002)
Jerry Reed "Live -- Still!" (R2K, 2005)
Jerry Reed "Let's Git It On" (R2K, 2006)
Jerry Reed "Christmas At The Mall" (R2K, 2007)
Jerry Reed "The Gallant Few" (Jerry Reed, 2008)
Hick Music Index