Jerry Reed was already a triple threat before his career in movies took off. He was a hit songwriter, a red-hot session guitarist, and a star performer. He was further catapulted into the pinnacle of the entertainment world by more than a dozen movies, including the three blockbuster releases of Smokey and the Bandit. One of his biggest hits, "East Bound and Down," came from that movie. He is what must be called the Renaissance Redneck, because he's done it all. And he's still doing it, at almost 70 years old. His new live CD, Jerry Reed Live, Still!, proves that the Alabama Wildman has still got it going on, way on.
He was only 17 when he signed his first major record deal. His career has already spanned 51 years. He's picked up multiple CMA and Grammy Awards along the way, and lots of songwriting awards for tunes he recorded himself or those that were covered by a list that includes Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, and many others.
He's an unbelievable guitar stylist, and we couldn't resist including a clip of one of his classic instrumentals that's not included on this new live CD, "The Claw." It features the master on the gut string for which he's famous, absolutely tearing it up. He and Chet Atkins (who signed him in 1964 to RCA) are lifelong friends, and did a lot of recording together. He's also cut many hot Telecaster tracks on the hundreds of records he's played on, but his gut string work is unduplicated anywhere.
He came to my house one time in the late 80s or early 90s, with a drummer of his that I knew from town. I was the MESA/Boogie amp rep in Nashville at the time, and to try them out you had to come over to my place, which turned out to be a good way to meet a lot of the hot guitar players in town. I ran him through all the different models and they really didn't do much for his style, until the drummer suggested we plug him into a bass speaker, and then his legendary thumb got even bigger--it was a scary thump that rocked my little house and made The Guitarman smile. He bought one of those speaker cabinets, and still uses it, as we remember in the interview. I stole some licks in open G tuning off him that day, and am writing a song about a dog this week that uses those licks that the interview brought back to mind. Funny how everything comes around eventually.
Jerry Reed was full of life on the phone, a real pleasure to talk to. Faith has become a big force in his life, and the new song "A Brand New Me" tells the story. We like his funny new song about aging, too, "Father Time and Gravity." The man's very down to earth for a legend who's accomplished what he has, and he doesn't seem to take himself too seriously. But we take his music very seriously, and highly encourage everybody to check out some clips on the Listen page, and to pick up the new live CD. continue to interview