Jerry Reed helped fuel Smokey and the Bandit.
Reed, the laid-back singer/songwriter who became a movie star courtesy Burt Reynolds, and whose banjo-picking tune "East Bound and Down" drove their hit Smokey movies, died yesterday of emphysema. He was 71.
Reed's association with Reynolds began in the 1976 good-ol' boy comedy W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.
Reed would go on to appear in five more Reynolds movies, including all three Smokey and the Bandits, in which Reed rode shotgun, figuratively if not literally, to Reynolds' law-evading interstate trucker. Throughout the CB-radio-celebrating trilogy, which produced films from 1977 to 1983, Reed's handle was Snowman; Reynolds' was Bandit.
Reed furthered Bandit's cause by producing country-fried driving music, including "East Bound and Down," off the original Smokey soundtrack.
Reed also acted with Reynolds in 1976' s Gator and 1983's Stroker Ace. In television, he put in appearances on two Reynolds series, B.L. Stryker and Evening Shade.
Long before his association with Reynolds, Reed was a Nashville notable—a songwriter whose songs were recorded by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, and a musician whose prowess earned him the moniker "The Guitar Man." Reed's first big hit as a performer would, in fact, be the article-free "Guitar Man."
In song as on screen, the Atlanta-born Reed was a chatty, casual presence. His other signature songs include the divorce rap "She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)" and the Grammy-winning, motor-mouthed "When You're Hot, You're Hot."
In all, Reed won three Grammys, including two for collaborations with fellow guitar great Chet Atkins.
Reed last acted in a movie in the 1998 Adam Sandler comedy The Waterboy.
Nashville's Tennessean said that, in recent years, Reed's health had been in decline, and his attitude in ascendance.
“For 50 years, all I’d done was take, take, take,” he told the newspaper last year. “I decided from now on it is going to be giving. And I’m way behind. We’re all way behind. We live this life like what’s down here is what it’s all about. We’re temporary, son, like a wisp of smoke.”