January 16

How “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” Made Jerry Reed One of the Hottest-Selling Acts  


In 1971, Jerry Reed released what would be his most successful song on the country chart – “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

Released as the title track of his first solo album, the song peaked at No. 1 in the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles for five weeks. It was also a crossover success, peaking at No. 9 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 in U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary Tracks. It also appeared in the country charts of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, where it reached No. 1.

In addition to being a major crossover hit, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” also helped Reed earn a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.

The Story Behind The Song

Written by Jerry Reed himself, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” is a story song in which most of the lyrics were being talked out instead of being sung.

The song tells the tale of a man involved in an illegal crap game happening at the back of an alley with his two friends. As he was having a streak of good luck, winning most of the games in a row, the police officers raided and arrested them.

The three friends were then brought into a court to face what their penalty or sentence should be, and to the man’s joy, he found out the judge leading their case is one of his old fishing buddies. However, it turned out he owes His Honor some money. 

The man offered the judge to pay back the money, trying to bribe him for at least a lighter sentence; unfortunately, the judge did the opposite. He gave the man’s friends two small fines while the man was sentenced to ninety days in jail.

The song ends with the man lambasting the judge.

“He let my friends go free and throwed the book at me. He said, ‘Well, when you’re hot, you’re hot.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll tell ya one thing, judge, old buddy, old pal. If you wasn’t wearin’ that black robe. I’d take out in back of this courthouse. And I’d try a little bit of your honor on,'” the song goes.

Reed was a regular on the music and comedy television variety show “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” During one of the shows, Reed forgot one of his lines. Feeling a little bit stuck, the singer simply improvised and said, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” This made the audience laugh out loud.

Reed knew right then and there that he was onto something. So, the moment he got home, he immediately wrote the whole song based on that one line. He added the phrase into a crap game, and the song’s storyline finished up with a visit to the court.

It has always been Reed’s goal to let people be entertained and have fun, so he always purposely kept political points of view out of all the songs he wrote and performed, making the events even more spirited and amusing. Indeed, his method paid off quite generously.

You can listen to “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” in the video below.


Jerry Reed

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