The Claw Man Is Gone
Jerry Reed Hubbard
I still recall where I was the first time I ever heard "The Claw." It was about 32 years ago and I was at Luthier John Monteleone's shop in Bay Shore, NY getting one of my big Guild's worked on. There were two really hot shot finger style guitar players hanging out there that day. One was Howie Emerson, who was in Billy Joel's band and the other fella was named Billy something. Billy had an old Gibson L5 if I recall and was playing a lot of Ry Cooder stuff. Then the two of them did a novelty number on one guitar. With one guy standing behind the other playing the neck and the other one the right hand part over the sound hole. The song that they played just dropped my jaw. Not because the two had obviously practiced this routine before, but of the complexity of the piece. I was new then to finger style guitar, even though I had already been playing the instrument 20 years. But this one was a REAL SHOW STOPPER ! So I asked where the tune came from and Howie said, that's Jerry Reed's __The Claw.
Fast forward about 5 more years. I now had my own guitar shop in Florida and one day this guy I'll call Preacher Bob comes in to try out a few guitars. So what does he play on them ? ....The Claw...and every other fantastic instrumental that Jerry Reed ever put down on tape. It seems Bob (who really was a preacher) also taught guitar, in the midwest, at a store with Tommy Flint, who was one of the first of Mel Bay's Merle Travis / Chet Atkins style instructors. Bob's brother Glen also could play all the Reed instrumentals and they mentioned that John Knowles had an instruction book and tape on Jerry Reed called Heavy Neckin'. I knew of John's work through another guitar monster named Guy Van Duser. So I naturally ordered it and soon I too was working my way through some of the wildest, funkiest, and gorgeous guitar instrumentals anyone on this planet ever came up with. From the Claw to the beautiful The Early Dawn aka "La Madrugada", Jerry Reed had joined my evergrowing list of essential guitarists of all types and all time.
This past Labor Day (Sept 1, 2008) I found myself plopped in my recliner watching All Gustav All The Time TV, with the sound muted and I grabbed my new classical guitar that I have been woodshedding with for the last two months. I am trying to regain some of the technique I let fall by the wayside over the years for various reasons. Semi reclined with the guitars soundhole facing straight up at me, I kept playing two songs over and over so much that I began to ask myself __ why? The songs were The Early Dawn and The Claw.
On Tuesday afternoon I got my answer. Jerry Reed had passed away on Monday. I contacted a bunch of musician friends and also began to read the tributes coming in from some of the best guitarists in Nashville. In Jerry's obit in the Tennessean, I also learned that he wrote a song I used to listen to a whole lot in the summer of 1960. It was called "All You Gotta Do" and it was on one of my brothers 45's. It wasn't the hit side of the record, but I always liked it and now I can certainly hear some of Jerry's feel and spirit in it. It was a uptempo number, that I probably actually liked as much as what was on monster hit flip side, a song that's title sums up a little of how I feel about hearing the news of Jerry's passing at age 71. On the other side was the first big hit for Little Miss Dynamite__ Brenda Lee ____ "I'm Sorry"
True to Jerry's personal style, he was buried privately Tuesday, before the news even hit the wires. I just hope that the powers that be in Nashville, aka "Guitar Town" organize a memorial for a true giant and genius of the guitar and we can hear some of Nashville's finest recreate some of that genius again live. *
I'll close with the words of John Knowles, a very fine guitarist & teacher, who made it possible for a whole bunch of us to steal some licks from Jerry. At the close of The Early Dawn, the last song on the tape, you will hear John softly say "Thank You Jerry"
CLICK IT & CRANK IT
Anytime you're feeling low
And you got no place to go
You don't have to be blue
Here is all you gotta do
Call me on the telephone
Tell me that you're all alone
And I'll come a runnin' to you
Baby, that's all you gotta do
All you gotta do when you're lonesome
Is to call on me
And I'll come a runnin' to you
As a fast as I can .............
All You Gotta Do, by Jerry Reed Hubbard