Hank Garland

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Hank Garland
Hank Garland.jpg
Background information
Birth name Walter Louis Garland
Born (1930-11-11)11 November 1930
Cowpens, South Carolina
Died 27 December 2004(2004-12-27) (aged 74)
Orange Park, Florida
Genres Jazz,[1] country[1] Rock & Roll
Occupation(s) musician
Instruments guitar
Years active 1946–1961
Associated acts Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, others

Walter Louis "Hank" Garland (11 November 1930 – 27 December 2004) was a Nashville studio musician who performed with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Moon Mullican, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison and many others.


Born in Cowpens, South Carolina,[2] Garland began playing the guitar at the age of six. He appeared on local radio shows at 12 and was discovered at 14 at a South Carolina record store.[3] He moved to Nashville at age 16, staying in Ma Upchurch's boarding house, where he roomed with upright bassist Paul Buskirk, and mandolin player & fiddler Dale Potter.

At age 18, Garland recorded his million-selling hit "Sugarfoot Rag". Garland appeared on the Jubilee with Grady Martin's band, and on Eddy Arnold's network and syndicated television shows.

Garland is perhaps best known for his Nashville studio work with Elvis Presley from 1958 to 1961, which produced such rock hits as: "I Need Your Love Tonight", "A Big Hunk O' Love", "I Got Stung", "A Fool Such As I", "Stuck on You", "Little Sister", "(Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame", and "I Feel So Bad".

However, he worked with many country music as well as rock 'n roll stars of the late 1950s and early 1960s including: Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, The Everly Brothers, Boots Randolph, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty, Moon Mullican.

1958 marked the height of the rockabilly era. Garland's guitar drove such classic recordings as Benny Joy's "Bundle of Love" and "I'm Gonna Move", Jimmy Loyd's "You're Gone Baby" & "I've Got A Rocket In My Pocket", Lefty Frizzell's "You're Humbuggin' Me" Simon Crum's "Stand Up, Sit Down, Shut Your Mouth", and Johnny Strickland's "She's Mine." He also backed major crossover artists as well. Don Gibson's "Sweet Sweet Girl" & "Don't Tell Me Your Troubles", Patsy Cline's "Let the Teardrops Fall" Ronnie Hawkin's "Jambalaya" and Faron Young's "Alone with You" spotlighted Garland's adept guitar work. Relatively obscure artists such as Jimmy Donley have reached cult status due in no small part to Garland's guitar artistry. Donley's 1960 record "My Baby's Gone" showcases another of Hank's superb riffs.

He also played with jazz artists such as George Shearing and Charlie Parker in New York and went on to record Jazz Winds From a New Direction, showcasing his evolving talent,[4] along with Gary Burton on vibraphone, Joe Benjamin on acoustic bass and Joe Morello on drums. It is believed that Garland was the first to explore the use of the power chord in popular music.

At the request of Gibson Guitar company president, Ted McCarty, Garland and fellow guitarist Billy Byrd strongly influenced the design of the Byrdland guitar, which derived from the Gibson L-5 guitar and is the guitar Garland is seen holding in the photograph above.[5]

In September 1961, he was playing for the soundtrack of Presley's movie, Follow That Dream when a car accident left Garland in a coma that lasted for a week. He recovered with the help of his brother Billy Garland, but not sufficiently to return to the studios. It was believed that electroconvulsive therapy, prescribed by his doctors, may have caused more damage to his brain. Garland's brother, Billy, claimed that the crash was actually an attempted murder by someone in the Nashville music scene.[3] Hank Garland was widely respected by his peers and Nashville producers such as Chet Atkins, Don Law and Owen Bradley.

When noted Nashville journalist Peter Cooper asked Chet Atkins a number of years ago who he thought the best guitar player to ever come to Nashville was, Atkins stated without hesitation, "Hank Garland." "Chet wasn't wrong," said Harold Bradley, an A-Teamer who, after the accident, took over for Garland as the most recorded guitarist in Nashville. "I am very humble about my playing because Hank Garland is the standard."

"I can't even imagine what he would have become had he not been in that accident," said Brad Paisley, a guitarist and contemporary country hit-maker who received a Grammy nomination for his own version of "Sugarfoot Rag." "You're talking about 40 years of lost innovation that could have come only from him."

Garland died on December 27, 2004 of a staph infection in Orange Park, Florida, where he lived with his brother, Billy Garland, and sister-in-law, Amy Garland. Upon his passing, The New York Times described Hank as "a studio artist known for musical riffs that could take a recording from humdrum to dazzling."

Hank was survived by two daughters, Cheryl Gruendemann and Debra Garland along with four grandsons and great grandchildren. 'The epitaph on Hank's gravestone reads, "THE GREATEST GUITAR PLAYER THAT EVER WALKED PLANET EARTH."


  • After the Riot at Newport (with The Nashville All-Stars) (1960)
  • Velvet Guitar (1960)
  • Jazz Winds From a New Direction (1961)
  • The Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland (1962)
  • Holiday for the Harp (with the Daphne Hellman Quartet)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Prown, P.; Newquist, H.P.; Eiche, J.F. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. H. Leonard. p. 125. ISBN 9780793540426. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  2. ^ Ginell, Richard. "Hank Garland: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Word, Ron "Obit-Garland" (December 28, 2004), The Associated Press
  4. ^ Ginell, Richard. "Jazz Winds from a New Direction: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Duchossior. pp. 57-60


External links[edit]