As a musician, he developed his own immediately identifiable guitar style, a feat accomplished only by Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis, Chet Atkins and a handful of other country players. As a songwriter, he's composed more than 300 songs, including hits recorded by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.
The normally reclusive Reed was the center of attention Tuesday (April 19) at BMI's office in Nashville during a party celebrating the release of his new album, Jerry Reed Live, Still!, on his own label, RIIK Records.
The album kicks off with "Guitar Man," including a brief spoken recollection of his 1967 session with Elvis Presley. Earlier that year, Reed's own version of the song had peaked at No. 53 on the country singles chart. He says he wasn't nervous about recreating his signature guitar line on Presley's session.
"I'd have been nervous if I had to do something I didn't know how to do," Reed says. "Elvis had heard my album cut, and he wanted it to sound like that. His producer was an old friend of mine from Atlanta, Felton Jarvis, who said, 'Well, you're gonna have to get Reed in here to play on it then. He's a fingerpicker, and these guys don't have any idea what he's doing because he does all this weird stuff anyway. He tunes them strings weird.' So I got in there and I turned that E-string down and that B-string up and hit that intro. I wasn't worried about playing that."
Ecstatic that Presley had recorded one of his songs, Reed was reluctant when steel guitarist Pete Drake encouraged him to immediately pitch another song to Presley.
"Pete and I knew each other in Atlanta, when I was working at a cotton mill and he was driving a Merita bread truck," Reed says. "He said, 'Have you got anything else?' I said, 'No, man. Listen, this is enough for me, believe me.' Then Elvis said, 'Yeah, have you got any other songs?' I said, 'Well ... uh ... yeah.'"
When Reed mentioned the title, "U.S. Male," Presley said, "Let me hear it."
"So I cut down on 'U.S. Male,' and he said, 'Let's cut that thing,'" Reed recalls. "It was that easy. Absolutely that easy. It's funny how things like that happen."
Source: CMT / Updated: Apr 21, 2005