Tribute: Dan Miller’s Notebook
JERRY REED, GUITAR MAN
By Dan Miller
September 3, 2008
My last conversation with Jerry Reed was not exactly the most comfortable we’d ever had, but it worked out just fine.
It was about three years ago when he wandered into my office at the television station, and we sat talking for 30 minutes or so.
Jerry was going through an agonizing period with his health, and he wasn’t able to sing or play the guitar at the time.
In fact, that day Jerry felt certain he’d never play guitar again.
As you can imagine, such a scenario was hard for him to cope with.
Jerry was feeling the gravity of aging and mortality that particular day, and our talk soon turned to life and spirituality.
Jerry was a deeply religious man.
He held firm, specific beliefs…. and obviously he enjoyed instructing me about them.
His faith was strong and true.
But I quickly realized that Jerry didn’t really want to discuss or scrutinize anything about his religious convictions.
I knew it because, somewhere in the conversation, I said something — I don’t even recall what — that seemingly rubbed him the wrong way.
As he left my office, I could tell he wasn’t as companionable and engaging as he had been when he first walked in.
About 10 minutes later, as I sat having coffee in our snack room down the hall, Jerry walked in, sat down across from me, and told me he wished we hadn’t even discussed religion.
“Me too” I told him, “it can sometimes get real uncomfortable.”
He explained how he didn’t even like to think about any ideas that weren’t in perfect conformity with his beliefs.
So then, as we sat there together, we wondered how we might talk about the journey of life without actually getting into a specific discussion of religion.
I suggested that we should recite the old nursery rhyme “Row Row Row Your Boat.”
I’ve always believed its four short lines spell out a philosophy of life that rises far beyond a simple child’s nursery rhyme.
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream
Jerry nodded his head up and down.
He smiled and liked it.
“That says a lot” he said.
Tuesday night, after I’d heard the news that Jerry Reed had died, I sat in an edit room watching the tape of an interview I did with Jerry 25 years ago, in the spring of 1983.
During that interview he talked about many aspects of his life, but the theme always went back to the guitar and his music.
He said, “God was good to me — He let me love music.”
That was a nice answer, but I wanted more.
I asked Jerry if he was in the music business for his love of music, or was it for the money?
Here is how he answered:
“I just really don’t care about money.”
“The money comes if you need it.”
“I never know how much I’ve got on me… I’m always bumming money.”
“I’d rather know how to play a C-sharp, and a 7th flat 5… I’d rather know what that is.”
Jerry was a guitar picker. One of the best.