More on Hank Garland from Eddie Stubbs

           Garland died at the age of 74, on Monday December 27, 2004 at the Orange Park Medical Center in Orange Park, Florida from complications of a staph infection. He had been in declining health for some time.
           Like Don Reno, Hank Garland was from the Spartanburg, South Carolina area, and the two actually played music together in the 1940's, first in their home area in a band and later informally when both were in Nashville in 1948 and 1949. Reno was with Bill Monroe, and Garland--still a teenager was with Cowboy Copas as an electric lead guitarist. Mac Wiseman has stated on many occasions that, "At the time, hands down, Cowboy Copas had the best band on the Opry. Copas just played an incredible rhythm guitar, and with Hank Garland on lead, Dale Potter on fiddle, Bob Foster on steel, and Autry Inman on bass, they took no prisoners!"
           For bluegrass fans, Hank Garland played closed chord 'sock' rhythm guitar on many of Mac Wiseman's Dot recordings in addition to playing mandolin on several as well. Years later, Garland would also play some electric lead guitar on Wiseman's recordings.
           Also on Dot, Garland played mandolin on dozens (but not all) of Tommy Jackson's fiddle instrumentals in addition to co-writing a few tunes with him as well. Long before the melodic mandolin style which Doyle Lawson and others popularized years later so well, Hank Garland was playing to perfection back in the early and middle 1950's. Garland's note-for-note mandolin playing was identical to Jackson's fiddle leads. The two would then switch parts respectively and play harmony to each other's lead. In the opinion of Sam Bush and I, as well as numerous others who have possession, or have heard Jackson's recordings, these are the most definitive commercial versions of these traditional hoedowns on record. For many it might be hard to say what is 'the' definitive version of a tune like "Ragtime Annie" or "Flop Eared Mule" when comparing it to 'the' definitive version of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" for example. But, like Earl Scruggs' work with literally every note in place, the same can be said for those who slowed the Tommy Jackson fiddle tunes down and dissected them note-for-note. Just as Earl Scruggs did for the banjo, Tommy Jackson set a precedent with the fiddle in commercial country music. His fiddle tunes with Hank Garland on mandolin helped to create this legacy. Sadly, "East Tennessee Blues" is the only Tommy Jackson Dot master currently in print on a new various artists bluegrass anthology reissued on Music Mill Entertainment titled "Rocky Top, Tennessee--The Greatest Songs Of..."
           Garland also worked on some of the first Osborne Brothers MGM recordings that utilized electric instrumentation.
           When noted Nashville journalist Peter Cooper asked Chet Atkins a number of years back who he thought the best guitar player to ever come to Nashville was, Atkins stated without hesitation, "Hank Garland."
           As an electric guitarist, Garland's work has been well documented recording with everyone from Cowboy Copas to Red Foley, the Everly Brothers, the Chuck Wagon Gang, Patsy Cline, to sound tracks with Elvis Presley.
           The solo jazz records Hank Garland made are considered to be classics of their style. Many of the hot lead guitar players and those up and coming in bluegrass could learn a great deal from the works of this master. He was one of the key exponents in the development of the Nashville Sound in the late 1950's and was one of the ace A-Team session musicians and worked on literally hundreds of recording sessions. His work also included playing acoustic lead, rhythm guitar, and the electric six-string bass guitar.
           In the late 1950's, Hank Garland and Billy Byrd designed a Gibson hollow body electric guitar. They combined their last names to give the model its name--Byrdland. They even recorded an instrumental together by that name on Billy Byrd's first solo album in the late 1950's for Warner Brothers.
           Sadly, his career was cut short at the age of 30 in September 1961, following an automobile accident just north of Nashville. After being comatose, he luckily regained consciousness. After extensive therapy, Garland was never able to regain the physical and motor skills he lost in the accident, although he was able to play a little. He went back to South Carolina and lived with his parents for a time and in more recent years resided in Jacksonville, Florida with his brother.
           There is much to learn from the recordings of Hank Garland. Regarded by many as a true musical genius, he will certainly be missed.
           For more of an overview of Garland's legacy, look for his obituary Wednesday in 'The Tennessean' at
Eddie Stubbs
WSM Grand Ole Opry Announcer
Nashville, Tennessee

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