Jerry Reed was a star during country music’s middle period, in between the southern drawl and twangy sound of the 1950s and ’60s and the power pop country music of the 1990s and 2000s. He may have been somewhat under appreciated during his lifetime but he was a guitar virtuoso, a gifted songwriter, and an energetic vocalist with good tone and style.
Despite all his accolades and success, for many people he will always be remembered as good ol’ boy trucker Cledus “The Snowman” Snow from the Smokey And The Bandit film series.
Real Gone Music has now reissued and combined his first two albums, The Unbelievable Guitar & Voice Of Jerry Reed and Nashville Underground. Those early albums established the style and sound that would carry him throughout his career.
His first album remains notable for two compositions recorded by Elvis Presley. “U.S. Male” and “Guitar Man” became hits for “The King” and Elvis brought Jerry Reed along to the recording sessions to provide some of the guitar work. His original take on “Guitar Man” contained a solo acoustic performance that introduced his instrumental dexterity. Likewise, “U.S. Male” contained some guitar runs and a tough-guy vocal. The instrumental “The Claw” was a showcase for his picking abilities.
Country music was very different back during the late ’60s and some of the tracks are a reflection of that era. “It Don’t Work That Way,” “You’re Young,” and “If I Promise” are typical country ballads of the time period.
Nashville Underground contained more traditional country fare and a few tracks where he branched out a bit. Chet Atkins was his early producer and mentor at the time and “Remembering,” “A Thing Called Love,” “and “Almost Crazy” reflected his string-laden foundation that was known as the “countrypolitan sound” at the time.
The centerpiece of the release was “Tupelo Mississippi Flash,” which was a semi-fictional tribute to Elvis. A trio of cover songs found Reed trying to expand his musical horizons. He just rolls through Ray Acuff’s classic “Wabash Cannonball.” He went in a gospel direction with Ray Charles’ “Hallelulujah I Love You So.” Finally, there was a personalized reading of the old folk song “John Henry.”
The return of these two early albums will hopefully help to resurrect the career of Jerry Reed and prove that he should be remembered as more than just Burt Reynolds’ sidekick. If you are a fan of country music, then this is a worthwhile buy as it contains some mighty fine pickin’.