Not long ago we were driving through gator country on our way to no place in particular, when the the old radio cued up “Amos Moses,” a tune I recall from my youth. It reminded me of how Jerry Reed stood out to me in the 70s, an era of country stars who could really pick.
My first exposure to Jerry was in an episode of Scooby Doo entitled “Phantom in the Country Music Hall,” in which he voiced himself. Fittingly, he would eventually be inducted into the actual Country Music Hall of Fame (in 2017). I still had no idea he was a musician when I saw him in Smokey and the Bandit, until I learned in the credits that he sang the theme song, “East Bound and Down.”
Departed from us in 2008, Jerry had an engaging personality and a down-home country wit. As a kid he reportedly would run around strumming his guitar shouting, “I’m gonna go to Nashville and be a star!” He did just that, and here are three great tunes to prove it.
Recorded in 1967, this was Jerry’s break-out tune. After a tour in the Army, he followed through on his childhood boast and moved to Nashville. He had some success as a songwriter and became a sought-after touring and session picker. He finally hit the U.S. Country chart with his recording of “Guitar Man,” a tune he composed. Elvis also recorded a version and Jerry played on the session. Quoth Jerry, “I was toppin’ cotton, son.”
Speaking of stars who can play, I had to include this clip of Jerry performing “Guitar Man” with Glen Campbell. Jerry rockin’ the Tele and Glen gettin’ modal at the end.
Jerry cracked the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with this groovin’ tale of a bayou gator poacher. Apparently it’s been widely used as a line dance taught at YMCAs. No kidding?
“Are You from Dixie (‘Cause I’m from Dixie Too)”
Jerry looks like he’s on the set of Mary Poppins in this clip. He celebrates his rebel roots in this #11 U.S. Country chart hit, and shows off his revered unique picking technique.