Elvis Presley’s cover of ‘Talk About the Good Times’ contains an uncredited Jerry Reed guitar solo
“Nobody can play like Jerry Reed.” Darrell Toney, baritone singer-acoustic guitarist for Terry Blackwood and the Imperials, swears in an exclusive interview that Reed overdubbed the 15-second gut string guitar solo on Elvis Presley’s cookin’ cover of “Talk About the Good Times,” the penultimate cut on 1974’s Good Times. Reed, also signed to RCA Victor, originally wrote and released the quasi-gospel barn burner yearning for days gone by “when a friend would meet you and a smile would greet you” on 1970’s Georgia Sunshine. His style is unmistakable starting at the 74-second mark. It’s pianist David Briggs and Master of Telecaster James Burton, who were tracking live with Elvis in Memphis’s Stax Studio, that you hear during the break on the rejected take three finally distributed on 1998’s Essential Elvis Volume 5.
Reed, who once unpretentiously reckoned his playing to “picking with my fingers and tuning that guitar up all weird kinds of ways,” has never been credited until now. Felton Jarvis, Elvis’s compadre and producer on the vast majority of his studio and live discography from 1966 through his untimely demise, took the basic tracks, cut on December 14, 1973, to Nashville the next month for sweetening without any further involvement from Elvis.
Reed was a Nashville resident inspired by rock and R&B who had earlier contributed to Elvis’s September 1967 [e.g. “Guitar Man”] and January 1968 [“U.S. Male”] RCA Studio B sessions at the behest of Jarvis. Neither of those Reed compositions reversed the Hillbilly Cat’s downward chart trajectory but were nonetheless artistic reawakenings after years buried in insipid Hollywood soundtracks.
Incidentally, Elvis’s third of four Reed renditions was “A Thing Called Love,” a rare gospel foray for the Atlanta-raised wild man [three years before his death from emphysema at age 71 “A Brand New Me” appeared on Jerry Reed ‘Live’! Still!]. In 1980 Jarvis, who had received a kidney transplant on Elvis’s dime but would soon succumb to a stroke, invited Reed to overdub Fender Telecaster on an electric remake of “Guitar Man,” attaining Elvis’s first posthumous number one.
The Imperials — Blackwood is the sole remaining original member who worked with Elvis from 1969 to 1971 — perform “Talk About the Good Times” to this day, including the Graceland Soundstage during Elvis Week. Toney knew Reed, has a 2006 instrumental guitar record on CDBaby called Jerry Reed…Revisited, and often appears onstage at the annual Reed tribute show in Nashville. Toney persuasively demonstrated Reed’s licks during our conversation and had researched Elvis’s sessions. Without any prompting he named Stax and was aware of drummer Ronnie Tutt, Briggs, and Burton playing on Elvis’s “Talk About the Good Times.” A couple of years before emphysema claimed his life at age 71 in 2008, Reed was one of the 140 participants who went on the record for Ken Sharp’s Writing for the King. Reed confirmed Toney’s account. I believe them.
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