Born Jerry Reed Hubbard in Atlanta, Georgia on March 20, 1937, singer/songwriter/entertainer Jerry Reed was passed among foster homes until 1944 when his birth mother remarried and decided to raise him with her new husband. Reed left school in 1954 to tour as opening act for Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours. The following year he cut his first single record as part of a four-year contract with Capitol Records.
That record title, If the Good Lord's Willing and the Creeks Don't Rise
is actually based on a phrase written to U. S. President Thomas Jefferson by Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins
. In response to a request for Hawkins to travel to Washington D. C.
Hawkins replied "God Willing and the Creek don't rise"
Basing his style on the picking of Merle Travis, the fast notes of Earl Scruggs, and the rhythm of Ray Charles, Reed developed a unique brand of music that brought him to the attention of Atlanta disc jockey Bill Lowery. Since Lowery did not have a studio, he brought Reed in as a disc jockey for WGST. Lowery decided to try to produce his own recordings as the National Recording Company in 1958. The company also featured singer/songwriters Joe South, Ray Stevens and others. Although it was not particularly well known at the time, music historians today tend to reflect on the talent of the men and their well-received output.
During his career at NRC Reed married Priscilla "Prissy" Mitchell in 1959. He would remain married to her for the rest of his life. One of Reed's contributions to NRC was the song "That’s All You Gotta Do," which Brenda Lee
covered on the "B" side of "I'm Sorry." It took Brenda to the #9 position of Billboard's Pop chart when it was released following the #1 hit. Reed left NRC in 1961 and signed with Colombia Records, where he wrote for Bobby Bare and Porter Wagoner including Wagoner's 1962 No. 1, "Misery Loves Company." Reed became friends with recording star Chet Atkins, who also ran RCA in Nashville. It was under Atkins guiding hand that Reed added instrument numbers to his act to showcase his unique picking talent and worked on developing Reed's rather unique image.
Reed's first song for RCA, Guitar Man (think Elvis, not Bread) was followed by "Tupelo Mississippi Flash," his first charted single (1967), a song about a talent scout who failed to recognize Elvis Presley's talent. The song caught Presley's attention and the Tupelo native recorded Guitar Man on September 11, 1967, in Nashville. Jerry Reed joined him for the session and did much of the guitar work on the recording.
In 1970 Jerry Reed recorded Amos Moses. Originally released to Jerry's core country audience the record crossed-over to the pop charts and scored as Jerry's first top 10 hit. An instrumental with Chet Atkins gave Reed his first Grammy in 1971 and When Your Hot, Your Hot the following year brought Reed his first Number 1 hit. It would also mark the start of Jerry Reed's most successful period in his career. After regular appearances on the Glen Campbell Show Reed moved into acting.
In 1974, Reed played Wayne in W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings, a wise-cracking but likable sing in Dixie's (Conny Van Dyke) band. Of course, W. W. (Burt Reynolds) and the crew are being chased by a less than likable sheriff, Art Carney, a plot Reynolds and Reed would resurrect in 1977's Smokey and the Bandit. In this movie Reed played Reynold's truck driving buddy Cledus "Snowman" Snow. In the film Reynolds and a (somewhat) unwilling Sally Field distract Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). Stuntman Hal Needham directed. Jerry Reed co-wrote the movie’s theme, "East Bound and Down" which reached both the country and pop charts, topping at #2 on the country chart. The film brought Reed back to the Atlanta area, where the movie was mostly filmed.
Jerry continued to record, scoring another Number 1 hit with She Got The Gold Mine (I Got The Shaft) in 1982. His last charted hit came a year later with The Bird, which featured impressions of Willie Nelson and George Jones. Throughout the 1980's and 90's Reed continued to perform on stage and in movies, but always in character roles. As emphysema took its toll Reed was forced to perform sitting on a stool, a far different show than his earlier energetic romps on stage. In the final stages of the disease he could no longer play guitar, but according to friends even that did not keep the singer down. Reed died on September 1, 2008.