Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In tribute to Jerry Reed Hubbard 1937-2008

As September 1, 2013 marks the five year anniversary of Jerry Reed’s death, I wanted to write a tribute to a musician that had inspired me greatly over the years. Jerry, this one’s for you son!


 It’s hard to describe the feeling a music fan feels when a respected artist passes on. Selfishness is a term that comes to mind because the feeling that the talents you have come to look up to, even depend on, are no more. You feel cheated, robbed of one who brought you so much joy; how could the music come to an end? It is an easy question to ask when listening to the music of Jerry Reed since he was full of so much life, vigor and natural, god-given talent, that it is next to impossible to think of his voice being silenced.

As a guitarist, he stood alone; instantly recognizable, he left a vast catalogue full of knuckle-busting instrumentals that will have many pickers scratching their heads for generations to come. As a singer, he sounded like every word that left his lips would be his last. His vocal performances were exuberant, at times cheeky and down-right soulful. His songwriting won him multiple Grammy Awards and a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. When Hollywood beckoned, Reed found even bigger success. He may not have been Laurence Olivier, but he didn’t need to be, his on-screen persona, like the man himself, was so charming and likeable, that his work in Smokey and the Bandit alone will cause him to be remembered by millions.

Ironically, Jerry was so talented in everything that he did, his guitar talents, which cannot be understated, went overlooked by the masses. Countless guitarists have cited Reed as an influence and yet to the public at large, his entertaining performances on shows like Hee-Haw and The Glen Campbell Hour, usually showcased Jerry Reed the entertainer. And every country singer strums a guitar right? Sure they do. But no one picked liked Jerry Reed.

Those in awe of a great musician always remark how they “make it look easy” and Reed was no exception to this sentiment. Watching him play Jerry’s Breakdown, one of his most well-loved instrumentals, Reed made it seem effortless even though what he played was extraordinarily difficult to recreate. But even more extraordinary – perhaps even frustrating – is that while one can hear the countless hours he surely spent sharpening his skills, there is a sense of reckless abandon in his playing which begs the question, “Is he really even trying or did he just make that up in a single flash of inspiration?”

There is a good case for the latter theory since he ended up releasing over 35 studio albums in his lifetime. To be even more specific, he released 12 albums between the years of 1971 to 1974 alone! Most artists are lucky if they can release three albums in their prime years. Jerry’s prime (1967-’77) saw the release of around 18 discs! And the music didn’t stop there as Jerry wound up releasing albums right up until 2008 – a mere few months before he passed.

When I first heard that Jerry Reed had passed on, I thought of one of his songs called I’m a Happy Man. I don’t know why. I grabbed my iPod and played this song. In a way, it sums up the man – or what I think of the man - better than any simple tribute could.

I'M A HAPPY MAN
Jerry Reed Hubbard
© Vector Music, BMI / Sixteen Stars Music, BMI

Woke up this morning a smile on my face
Looked out at the world what a beautiful place
The sun's shinin' in a blue sky above
A home and family surrounded with love

And I'm a happy man a happy man I won't take time to be sad
I am a happy man a happy man who's thankful and so glad
That I've been taught not to pity myself but live every moment of life that's left
There's just not enough time to be anything else
Anything else but a happy man

I won't be bitter cause I won't take time
For that kind of thinkin' to clutter my mind
A man just has such a little while
To spread a little joy and give a smile

So I'm a happy man a happy man...

I've had misfortune to visit on me
To break my weary spirit and bring me to my knees
But a man can never learn to appreciate this life
Till his joy's been mixed with trouble and strife

So I'm a happy man a happy man...