More on Hank Garland from Eddie Stubbs
THE FOLLOWING IS A REPORT BY EDDIE STUBBS, COUNTRY MUSIC HISTORIAN, WSM
DEEJAY AND GRAND OLE OPRY ANNOUNCER.
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
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
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 www.thetennessean.com.
WSM Grand Ole Opry Announcer
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