Born: October 11, 1930 | Died: 2004 Primary Instrument: Guitar
Hank Garland was born in Cowpens, South Carolina on November 11, 1930. He began taking guitar lessons when he was six years old from a neighbor. At fifteen years of age he joined Paul Howard's Georgia Cotton Pickers and with them, played for the first time at the Opry, in Nashville. While in Nashville he met Chet Atkins, Billy Byrd and Owen Bradley and was introduced to jazz. Billy Byrd and Hank Garland became very close friends and together they designed the Gibson Byrdland guitar, which was named after them.
Garland stayed with Paul Howard for two years and then joined Cowboy Copas for a year. He appeared on several recordings by Copas and was quickly advancing his skills as a guitarist. After a year he left Copas and went out on his own as a freelance studio musician. As a session guitarist he made a number of recordings on the Decca and Dot labels. A notable recording from this period was Sugarfoot Rag, something Garland had written as an exercise.
In the early 1950's Hank Garland went on the road with Eddy Arnold. The roadwork with Arnold took him to New York where he met some of his jazz guitar idols -- Barry Galbraith and Tal Farlow. Hank Garland formed a special relationship with Galbraith and credited Galbraith with teaching him how to play rhythm guitar. When he returned to Nashville he continued to work in the studios recording with all the big names in rock and country at that time, including Elvis (Little Sister), the Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline and many others.
In the early 1960's a series of recordings appeared by Hank Garland; The Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland, After The Riot at Newport, Velvet Guitar and Jazz Winds From A New Direction. With the exception of the Jazz In New York album produced by Hank's brother Billy, these were the only major jazz recordings Hank Garland made. In 1961 he was in a car accident that left him with permanent brain damage and the loss of his ability to play the guitar. Garland was thirty years old. In fifteen years he went from his first outings with Paul Howard and The Georgia Cotton Pickers to one of the most amazing jazz guitarists of his time.
In 1996, Just Jazz Guitar published a brief tribute (May 1996, No. 7) to Hank Garland that included these comments by Johnny Smith, To me, Hank Garland will always be one of the great players of our time...
Source: Classic Jazz Guitar