The South Carolina family had seemingly come all the way to Nashville for nothing. It was 1945, and an Opry star had invited their guitar-mad, 15-year-old son to join his band on the Ryman's hallowed stage. Now that star Paul Howard, leader of The Arkansas Cotton Pickens, could not remember the invitation he'd extended - in person in Spartanburg, South Carolina and then by phone-to young Walter Louis Hank Garland. His parents, skeptical at the invitations, had nonetheless brought their son to Nashville. Only when Hank's father reminded Howard of the phone calls did he remember: On tour, Howard had stopped at Alexander's Music Store in Spartanburg where Hank was buying a guitar string. The clerks praised the teenager's playing and handed him a guitar. After hearing him play, Howard offered him a job on the spot.
That night on the Opry, young Hank Garland's intense electric guitar boogie instrumental blew away Howard, his musicians and the Opry audience. The bandleader made good on his job offer until the Musicians' Union discovered Garland s age. He had to be 16 to qualify for working papers. Hank went back, dejected, to Cowpens, South Carolina, where he'd been born on November 11, 1930. He'd grown up influenced deeply by Maybelle Carter, and became good enough to play in Shorty Painter's country band in nearby Spartanburg. That's what he'd been doing when he met Howard.