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The Story Behind the Song: “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” by Jerry Reed

The Story Behind the Song: “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” by Jerry Reed
Jerry Reed with Chet Atkins at RCA Studio B, 1950s.

On April 18, 1970, RCA Records took a bold step by placing an ad in Billboard Magazine featuring a statement from Chet Atkins, the vice president of the label’s country division. In this ad, Atkins expressed his unwavering belief in Jerry Reed, calling him “one of the greatest undeveloped talents I have ever known,” despite Reed not yet having a top-ten hit. Atkins went so far as to say, “If Jerry doesn’t make it big in the near future, I will probably quit my job, because if that is true, I do not know talent.” It seems Atkins had a premonition, as by the end of the year, Reed was one of the hottest acts in the industry.

The turning point came with the release of “Amos Moses” on October 24, 1970. Before this, Reed’s highest chart position as a performer was #11 with “Are You From Dixie.” However, he had already achieved success as a songwriter, penning Porter Wagoner’s 1962 #1 hit “Misery Loves Company.” “Amos Moses” reached only #16 on Billboard’s country chart but performed much better on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #8 on February 27, 1971. The single also achieved gold status, with the RIAA certifying it for selling one million copies.


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Reed’s next release was even more successful. As a regular on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” he once forgot his lines during a show and ad-libbed “When you’re hot, you’re hot,” which received an enthusiastic response from the audience. Recognizing its potential, Reed wrote an entire song around this phrase, incorporating it into a dice game and concluding the song with a courtroom scene. With lively female background vocals, Reed’s casual rap style, and his energetic guitar playing, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” had a party vibe. Reed believed music should be fun and entertaining, intentionally avoiding political themes in his work.


This approach paid off. “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” topped Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart for five weeks and reached #9 on the pop chart, a rare feat for a Nashville-based release. The song earned Reed a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Male and solidified his success, thereby securing Chet Atkins’ job as well.

Jerry Reed – When You’re Hot You’re Hot ( Live and Lyrics )

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