Guitarist, singer and songwriter Jerry Reed, who was among the first country musicians to make the leap to Hollywood, died Monday of complications from emphysema. He was 71.
Reed became a country crossover star with back-to-back story-driven ditties in 1970 and ’71: “Amos Moses,” a Cajun-style tune about the feats of a man raised in the Louisiana swamps; and “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” in which a street gambler tries to wheel and deal. For the eight or nine years prior to hitting No. 1, Reed was known as one of Nashville’s premier session guitarists and the author of two hits for Elvis Presley, “Guitar Man” and “U.S. Male.”
He became a regular on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” TV show in 1970 and was prolific generator of albums throughout the decade; 14 of his LPs landed in the country top 30 between 1970 and ’77.
Besides “When You’re Hot,” he had two other country chart-toppers, “Lord, Mr. Ford” in 1973 and “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)” in 1982. He had three singles hit No. 2: “(I’m Just a Redneck) in a Rock ‘n’ Roll Bar” and “East Bound and Down” in 1977 and “The Bird” in 1982.”
Burt Reynolds, who was a friend of Reed’s, brought him to Hollywood to co-star in “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” in 1975, and the two appeared together in all three “Smokey and the Bandit” movies. Reed did sporadic acting on television in the 1980s and most recently appeared as a football coach in 1998’s “The Waterboy,” but more importantly, he opened the door for stars such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers.
Born Jerry Reed Hubbard in Atlanta, he learned guitar at the age of 8 and dropped out of high school to tour with Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. In 1958, Gene Vincent covered his tune “Crazy Legs.”
Reed moved to Nashville in 1961 after a two-year stint in the military, during which time Brenda Lee had a No. 6 pop hit with his “That’s All You Got to Do.” Reed would later write for Johnny Cash, Dean Martin and the Oak Ridge Boys. His last studio album was 1999’s “Pickin’.”
He won three Grammy Awards, most recently for his 1992 recording “Sneakin’ Around” with Chet Atkins, the guitarist-producer who was an early mentor for Reed in Nashville. He was the CMA musician of the year in 1971.