Depending on your age and preferred era of country music, you might think of Jerry Reed as the Snowman from the Smokey and the Bandit films, the most random Scooby-Doo special guest or the football coach from Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy. That’s not a bad pop cultural footprint for a guitarist and songwriter from Atlanta, Ga. -- but that covers just a few onscreen roles sprinkled throughout a Hall of Fame recording career.
Reed (March 20, 1937-Sept. 1, 2008) recorded some fantastic music from the age of 18 until the later years of his life. For the uninitiated, a deep dive isn’t required to get his sense of humor or admire his greatness as Chet Atkins’ string-bending understudy. The obvious hits, including the theme to a beloved film series, paint a pretty full picture when paired with two or three less likely cuts, as evidenced by this rundown of Reed’s 10 greatest songs:
“You Took All the Ramblin' Out of Me”From 'Hot a' Mighty!' (1973)
Reed had a little hell-raiser in him before the term “outlaw” became commonplace, with that attitude reflected in some of his songs’ characters. In this case, the right woman cures his leading man of rambling fever.
"The Claw"From 'The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed' (1967)
Reed’s witty turns of phrase and ample acting chops might overshadow his even greater skills as a guitarist. To set the record straight, we made sure to include one of his better instrumental jams.
"Lord, Mr. Ford"From 'Lord, Mr. Ford' (1973)
Reed cleverly longed for the good ole days by describing the inconveniences caused by cars, one of the most prevalent modern conveniences in our society. It’s somewhere in between political commentary and a smart-aleck joke.
"Guitar Man"From 'The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed' (1967)
As a young songwriter, Reed caught the attention of the King himself. Elvis Presley's version of this song took it mainstream. Other Reed compositions made immortal by his fellow legends include Porter Wagoner's 1962 hit “Misery Loves Company” and Presley’s version of “U.S. Male.”
"The Bird"From 'The Bird' (1982)
Merle Haggard wasn’t classic country music’s only skilled impressionist. In this fun little ditty about a talking parrot with a real future on Music Row, Reed pulls off amazing impressions of Willie Nelson and George Jones.
"Alabama Wild Man"From 'Alabama Wild Man' (1968)
This less obvious pick combines the fiery vocal performances of Jerry Lee Lewis with the guitar picking precision of Reed’s friend and mentor Atkins to create a fun, rocking deep cut that’ll wow your garage rocker friends.
"When You're Hot, You're Hot"From 'When You're Hot, You're Hot' (1971)
There’s a talent in recording a surefire crossover hit yet maintaining your Southern-born wit and wisdom, as pulled off by Reed on this 1971 single. It topped the country charts for five weeks and cracked the pop charts’ Top 10.
“She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”From 'The Man with the Golden Thumb' (1982)
Reed could always hang with Roger Miller when it came time to add a little humor to country music’s serious subject matter. In this case, Reed adds to the rich history of hilarious country songs while tackling normally heartbreaking lyrical tropes about divorce.
"Amos Moses"From 'Georgia Sunshine' (1970)
This song has it all: storytelling, regional imagery, humor and Reed’s chicken-scratch style as a guitarist. Those elements paint the picture of a mean-as-the-dickens character as ornery as anything from the imagination of one Reed’s favorite songwriter peers, Jim Croce.
"East Down and Bound"From 'East Bound and Down' (1977)
Of the great crossover songs of the late ‘70s, only Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” made further inroads into popular culture. To this day, Reed’s greatest song remains synonymous with his Hall of Fame career and the legacy of the late, great Burt Reynolds.