Most people will remember Jerry Reed for his acting roles, particularly in such movies as Smokey and the Bandit and Gator (both starring Burt Reynolds). But Reed, who died at age 71 of complications stemming from emphysema, was also a gifted guitarist who recorded with Chet Atkins, as well as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, Nat King Cole, and the Oakridge Boys all recorded one or more songs written by Reed.
Born in Atlanta, Reed began to learn how to play guitar at the age of 8, when his mother bought him a $2 acoustic and showed him how to play a G chord. His love of music was so strong that he dropped out of high school to tour with Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. At just 17, he signed his first recording contract with Capitol Records, and by the mid-1960s, he moved to Nashville where he established himself as a songwriter. Elvis recorded two of Reed’s songs, “U.S. Male” and “Guitar Man” in 1968, and Reed was voted Instrumentalist of the Year in 1970 by the Country Music Association. Not surprisingly, he caught the eye of another legendary Nashville guitarist, Chet Atkins, with whom he captured several Grammys. He also walked away with his own award after recording “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” which was just one in a long line of hit records. Reed continued performing on tours until 1999, when he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. When asked just what his inspiration was, Reed candidly answered, “Money!”