Standing outside the Comedy Caravan one night after a Tim Wilson performance, Tim and I were discussing various country singers. "I've met a few Hall of Famers," Wilson said. "Of course, I did that song with Jerry Reed."
"Jerry's not in the Hall of Fame yet," I mused.
"You're kidding!" Wilson said. He paused a moment. "Well, he should be."
Jerry Reed suffered from Roger Miller syndrome. Much like the late Hall of Famer, Reed's "serious" work was overlooked. He was known for lighthearted, dare I say "silly" or "novelty" songs like "She Got the Gold Mine (I Got the Shaft)," "Amos Moses," "When You're Hot, You're Hot," and "I'm a Slave." The song that Tim Wilson referenced was "I Married a Woman Who Talks Like Jerry Reed" from Wilson's album Tuned Up. Wilson's great song told the tale of a woman with a great body but a horrid voice. Reed did the voice of the wife.
A lot of people would be surprised to know that Reed wrote Porter Wagoner's 1962 hit "Misery Loves Company" or Johnny Cash's 1972 hit "A Thing Called Love" (no relation to the song penned by John Hiatt that brought Bonnie Raitt a wheelbarrow full of Grammy awards in the late 80s).
And, of course, there was the guitar playing. When I was doing my internship at the Country Music Foundation, I ran into Chet Atkins (very literally -- I came out of the record storage stacks with an armload of albums and guess who was on the other side of the door?). There were a number of "generations" photos around the reading room, one of which was Merle Travis and Jerry Reed. "That's a great picture," Atkins commented. He was right. It was a great picture because it featured two great guitarists. Of Reed's three Grammy Awards, two were for his guitar playing, both for recordings with Atkins (Me and Jerry, 1970, and Sneakin' Around, 1992). He only won two CMA awards -- as "Instrumentalist of the Year."
The other sad "Roger Miller syndrome" that Reed had is that he has now passed without seeing his induction into the Hall of Fame. This is why it is so critical to put the deserving people in and NOW -- if Reed is inducted tomorrow, it's too late for him.
One of Jerry Reed's greatest songs is a minor hit from 1972 called "Smell the Flowers." Its lyrics on living life would make a most fitting epitaph to this giant of country music:
Got a troubled mind?
Friend, if you let too much worry rule your days
When you look back,
Do you feel like something precious slipped away
Oh my friend, are you the man
Who let the world slip through your hands
Can you remember when you smelled the flowers?
Smell the flowers while the roses bloom
Take the time, my friend and sing a happy tune
You won't have this day again 'cause every road has got to end
So don't forget my friend to smell the flowers.
Farewell to Jerry Reed Hubbard
March 20, 1937 - September 1, 2008