Jerry Reed

Join Stu­art Ryan to em­brace an amaz­ing song­writer, fine singer, and stu­pen­dous coun­try guitar picker, the un­bear­ably gifted Jerry Reed.

Guitar Techniques - - LESSON | ACOUSTIC COUNTRY -

Fol­low­ing on from last month and car­ry­ing on our ex­am­i­na­tion of the great Nashville style gui­tarists, in this is­sue we are look­ing at ‘The Alabama Wild Man’, Jerry Reed. A friend and reg­u­lar co-writer with Chet Atkins, Reed is a leg­end in the world of fin­ger­pick­ers. His sig­na­ture funky style is prob­a­bly best de­scribed as ‘mu­si­cal gumbo’ – draw­ing from coun­try, blues, jazz and so much more. Ev­ery­thing he played was in­fec­tious and driven by an un­be­liev­able groove.

Jerry Reed was born in At­lanta, Ge­or­gia on March 20th, 1937. He took up guitar as a child and by 19 was a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian and song­writer – one of his first suc­cesses came in 1958 when rock­a­billy leg­end Gene Vincent cov­ered his track Crazy Legs. A move to Nashville in 1961 saw his ca­reer de­velop fur­ther and he be­came pop­u­lar as both a song­writer and ses­sion mu­si­cian in the coun­try world – one of his most in­cred­i­ble mo­ments came in 1967 when Elvis Pres­ley tracked him down to record guitar on his cover of Jerry’s Guitar Man. Reed recorded on sev­eral more Elvis al­bums and just when you think it can’t get any bet­ter Johnny Cash recorded a cover of Jerry’s song, A Thing Called Love in 1971.

Reed rightly has an in­cred­i­ble rep­u­ta­tion as a gui­tarist but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber his song­writ­ing her­itage as this helps to ex­plain why his in­stru­men­tal guitar work is so melodic and hook based. Many gui­tarists have writ­ten in­stru­men­tal mu­sic that is vir­tu­osic in de­liv­ery but Reed stands apart from them as he was al­ways writ­ing ‘songs’ even of there weren’t vo­cals and lyrics. His melodic ap­proach is a great les­son for us all to take some­thing from.

In the 1970s he be­gan to work more with fel­low leg­end Chet Atkins and his in­stru­men­tal guitar work came to the fore. Their duo al­bum Me & Chet is es­sen­tial lis­ten­ing for any fin­ger­style player. By now you may be think­ing you are some­how fa­mil­iar with Reed be­yond his mu­sic, and in­deed you are: in the late ‘70s he starred along­side Burt Reynolds in the clas­sic Smokey And The Ban­dit movie se­ries (nat­u­rally he con­tributed to the sound­track too). So, whether you’re a fan of his mu­sic or movies it can’t be de­nied that Jerry Reed was one of the great fin­ger­pick­ers. Last time I looked at Reed in Guitar Tech­niques I fo­cused on his ‘Jerry’s Break­down’ style, so in this is­sue we’ll see how he cre­ated quirky sound­ing chord parts - with oblig­a­tory banjo rolls thrown in!

NEXT MONTH Stu­art looks at the acous­tic side of elec­tric coun­try vir­tu­oso, Brad Pais­ley

One of his in­cred­i­ble mo­ments came in 1967 when elvis tracked him down to play on his cover of guitar man

Jerry Reed pick­ing his pre­ferred ny­lon-string

Jerry Reed of­ten played ny­lon-string gui­tars (on his own and on Elvis’s cover of Guitar Man). Most com­monly it was his Bald­win Model 801 elec­tro-clas­si­cal - not a high-end in­stru­ment by any means. He also played a Gretsch Chet Atkins and later on master luthier Kirk Sand built him a ny­lon clas­si­cal. I recorded this month’s col­umn on a 1959 Martin 000-18.

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