Remembering Jerry Reed

Jerry Reed, who died Monday at 71, will probably be most commonly remembered for his comic roles in movies like Smokey and the Bandit and The Waterboy, but he was also one of the greatest guitar pickers in country music history. Before Reed became Burt Reynolds’ truck-driving sidekick, and before he became an early ’70s country hitmaker ("When You’re Hot, You’re Hot," "Lord, Mr. Ford"), he was in demand as a session player, songwriter, and sometimes both. (When Elvis Presley recorded Reed’s "U.S. Male" and "Guitar Man" and couldn’t find a session player who could duplicate Reed’s licks, he simply hired Reed to play them.) Building on the work of virtuoso pickers Chet Atkins (with whom Reed would eventually duet in a Grammy-winning collaboration) and banjoist Earl Scruggs, Reed developed a style called "The Claw," named for the gnarled position of his hand and the complicated, polyrhythmic use of all five of its fingers at once. (You can see it up close in the clip below.)

Once Reed began to find chart success as a solo artist, Hollywood came calling. What Reed’s songs had in common with his acting was a laid-back, wry, comic sensibility. (Classic Reed song title: "She Got the Goldmine [I Got the Shaft.]") Whether on screen or seated with his guitar, Reed was a showman who aimed only to please, and who made it look easy.


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  • girard31

    Growing up in the 70’s, Louisiana was defined for me by Jerry’s “Amos Moses” and Jim Stafford’s “Swamp Witch”.
    I’ll always remember that cackling laugh in “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” and he always had a great story to tell when he was on Johnny Carson.
    “Louisiana law’s gonna get ya, Amos
    It ain’t legal hunting alligators down in the bayou.”

  • MAURICE

    JERRY REED WAS AND WILL ALWAYS BE A SUPERSTAR IN MY EYES,IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE HE’S GONE,HE WILL BE MISSED!

  • dom

    He was great, I loved him in Smokey and the Bandit, and he was good in The Survivors too.

  • Julie

    He was my favorite part of “Smokey & the Bandit” . . . Love his music and that great laugh. RIP, Jerry, you’ll be missed.

  • Kathgal

    Loved his “Lord Mr. Ford”. He was such an amazing picker. And don’t forget he was also a character on the Scooby Do cartoon, he voiced himself, and his cartoon looked very much like him!

  • kathgal

    dont’ forget he was also on Scooby Do! He voiced his own charcter, which looked like him.

  • Christa

    “Amos Moses” is my favorite, too! I feel like I need to call in sick and watch Smokey and the Bandit today.

  • KLF

    Hands down my favorite Jerry Reed movie was The Survivors with Robin Williams and Walter Matthau! But a close second (and a really cheesy but funny movie) was called Hot Stuff. He really cracked me up and he will definitely be missed! RIP Jerry!

  • Debra

    That was fantastic!!! Jerry Reed and the blues like peanut butter and jelly!

  • SLB

    How could you NOT love Jerry Reed.

  • Owen

    You know, I hadn’t thought of Jerry Reed in years. But when I read this morning that he’d died…my first thought was his cartoon visage in the old Saturday morning “Scooby Doo Movies”….

  • mangagirl

    One of my guily pleasures…Smokey and the Bandit (the first one only), Jerry Reed made the film the hoot that it is along with Fred.

  • Bing Cox

    I had fond memories of listening to When You’re Hot Your Hot and seeing him in the Smokey movies. After dropping out of college, I spent some time at small AM country radio stations and discovered that he was a fine picker and guitarist that could deliver something besides the novelty tunes.

  • Stephanie T.

    I remember the old Scooby Doo episode in which he played himself, and Smokey and the Bandit would not have worked without Jerry Reed and his sense of humor.

  • rob g.

    I always liked him in “smokey and the bandit”, Great Show!!!!!!!!!!!!

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