Friday, 9 March 2018

Jerry Byrd born 9 March 1920

Gerald Lester "Jerry" Byrd (March 9, 1920 – April 11, 2005), was an American musician who played the lap steel guitar in country and Hawaiian music, as well as a singer-songwriter and the head of a music publishing firm, he appeared on numerous radio programs. 

Byrd was born on March 9, 1920 in Lima, Ohio. His interest in the instrument began after a "tent show" when he was 12 and by 15 he was playing in bars. As a child, he developed a passion for Hawaiian music, although he made his first inroads into performing by playing country on an area radio station between 1935 and 1937.

Illness struck Jerry in 1941 when he contacted pneumonia which nearly took his life. The disease prevented him from participating in any military service during World War II. He returned to his home in Lima and following a long recuperation period he returned to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance where he worked until 1942. During that year he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he appeared on radio station WJR for over two years until he signed on with Ernie Lee's Pleasant Valley Boys in 1944. Byrd remained with Lee until 1946, when he formed his own group, the Jay-Bird Trio.

In 1948 his career saw him as a member of Ernest Tubb's band the "Texas Troubadours" for about three months; long enough to go to Hollywood and be a part of the movie, "Hollywood Barn Dance". Later on, he joined the Cumberland Valley Boys which was the group behind Red Foley. 

Jerry then joined the world famous "Grand Ole Opry" in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1944/45. It was during this time that his unique playing style was first heard on commercial recordings with nearly all the top country singers of that era. Jerry quickly became the most sought after "side" man in the recording industry, doing hundreds of sessions with singers from the country and pop segments of the business.

Also in 1948, Byrd cut his first singles, "Mountain Mambo" and, under the name Jerry Robin, "Sun Shadows." Later in the year, he issued his first 78, "Steelin' the Blues." While at King, Byrd also recorded a handful of Hawaiian songs, and as the years wore on, the music became his primary focus. 

Still, Byrd remained an active figure on the country landscape; in
1950 he became a regular on Foley's NBC television program, and from 1954 to 1956 he was featured on the Nashville-based series Home Folks. An eight-year stint on the program Country Junction followed, and in 1964 he became a member of Bobby Lord's TV band. 
He was important to the early career of Dolly Parton being one of the first to sign her. He also was an educator of the steel guitar giving lessons to Jimmie Vaughan and Jerry Garcia among others. The list of artists that Byrd played or recorded with included Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Patsy Cline and Red Foley and countless others. With Hank Williams he played songs like I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry, Lovesick Blues and Mansion on the Hill.

In the early 1970s he moved to Hawaii and worked on reviving Hawaiian steel guitar music, taking a great delight in giving lap steel lessons to the young musicians who showed interest in insuring that the lap steel remained an important instrument in Hawaiian music. 

While living in Hawaii, Byrd had a regular weekly gig with his trio at the Royal Hawiian Hotel that lasted until his death. Though Byrd often joked about pedal steel guitar players, he had nothing but the highest of praise for Buddy Emmons, saying he had taken the steel guitar to new places with his playing. Byrd was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1978 as # 1. His plaque proclaims him to be "The Master of Touch and Tone". 

He published his autobiography "It Was a Trip: On The Wings of Music". Byrd died of Parkinson's disease at 85 in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he had resided for 30 years. His Rickenbacker lap steel is housed at the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

 (Info compiled and edited from All Music,Wikipedia  & Hill-billy


boppinbob said...

For “ Jerry Byrd - Steel Guitar Favorites (1966)” go here:

1. Steelin' The Blues 2:21
2. Steel Guitar Rag
3. Cocoanut Grove 2:13
4. Texas Play Boy Rag 2:02
5. Limehouse Blues 2:13
6. The Jitterbug Waltz 2:20
7. Panhandle Rag 2:28
8. Steelin' The Chimes
9. Wang Wang Blues 2:30
10. Georgia Steel Guitar 2:39
11. Wabash Wah-Wah Blues
12. Gold Coast Blues 2:35

A big thank you to Mark Gruyere @ Real Folk Blog for active link.

For “Jerry Byrd - The Polynesian Suite” (1968) go here;

1) Medley 6:30
Invitation To A Luau
Sweet And Sour
Mamola By Moonlight
2) Medley 4:22
Sake Punch
Second Waltz
3) Medley 4:48
Malay Girl
Kahala Hula
4) Medley 4:53
Pearl Harbor March
Surfside Up
5) Medley 4:59
Diamond Head Hula
6) Finale (Aloha Luau) 3:40

A big thank you to the schnickschnack mixmax blog for active link.

Pudge said...

One of my all-time favorite instruments. Thank you Bob.