b. Atlanta, Georgia, March 20, 1937; d. September 1, 2008
Three-time Grammy winner Jerry Reed is most famous for his colorful, catchy story songs steeped in Southern attitude and lore. But among those in the know, he was recognized as a groundbreaking guitarist who created a syncopated, fingerstyle guitar technique that gave his songs—and those he contributed to as a guitarist—an extra layer of funky, back-country grease.
Reed was championed by legendary guitarist-producer Chet Atkins, who incorporated some of Reed’s advances into his own style. Georgia-born Reed also influenced artists including Brad Paisley and Steve Wariner, and studio pros such as Steve Gibson and Brent Mason. Reed’s songs were cut by Atkins, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Tom Jones, Brenda Lee, and Elvis Presley.
By his early teens, Reed had appeared on concert bills with Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. He signed his first record contract with Capitol Records at age seventeen, but later achieved his greatest success on RCA Records. As a guitarist, Reed played on hits by John Hartford, Homer & Jethro, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, and Elvis Presley.
Popular with non-country acts, Reed recorded frequently with Joan Baez and worked with the Beau Brummels, Ian & Sylvia, Ringo Starr, and other artists. Reed also had a successful career as a movie actor.
Listen to Jerry Reed
Beau Brummels, “Turn Around” (Ron Elliott)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; Harold Bradley, guitar; Wayne Moss, guitar; Sal Valentino, vocals; Ron Elliott, guitar; David Briggs, keyboards; Norbert Putnam, bass; Kenny Buttrey, drums.
From the album Bradley’s Barn, 1968. Produced by Lenny Waronker at Bradley’s Barn, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
Ringo Starr, “Fifteen Dollar Draw” (Sorrells Pickard)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; Charlie Daniels, guitar; Ben Keith, dobro; Junior Huskey, bass.
From the album Beaucoups of Blues, 1970. Produced by Pete Drake at Music City Recorders, Nashville.
Joan Baez, “Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South” (traditional)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; Rich Festinger, guitar; Kenny Buttrey, drums; Jeffrey Shurtleff, duet vocal.
From the album One Day at a Time, 1970. Produced by Maynard Solomon at Bradley’s Barn, Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
Jerry Reed, “The Claw” (Jerry Reed)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; Wayne Moss, guitar; Fred Carter Jr., guitar.
From the album The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice of Jerry Reed, 1967. Produced by Chet Atkins at RCA Studios, Nashville.
Elvis Presley, “Guitar Man” (Jerry Reed)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; Floyd Cramer, piano; Bob Moore, bass; Buddy Harman, drums.
Single, 1968. Produced by Felton Jarvis at RCA Studios, Nashville.
Merle Haggard, “Okie from Muskogee” (Merle Haggard, Eddie Burrus)
Among the musicians featured on this recording are Jerry Reed, guitar; James Burton, guitar; Roy Nichols, guitar; Glen D. Hardin, piano; Ron Tutt, drums.
Single, 1969. Produced by Ken Nelson at Capitol Studios, Los Angeles; Jerry Reed guitar overdubs recorded in Nashville.