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About Hank

Walter Garland was born in Cowpens, SC on November 11, 1930. Cowpens is a small town just northeast of Spartanburg not far from the North Carolina border. It was an area dominated by hardcore country music, which had quite an impact upon young Hank. Chet Atkins, who worked closely with Garland through the years, recalls that "Hank said his first inspiration was the Carter Family. He heard Maybelle picking the 'Wildwood Flower' when he was a little kid, and he dreamed that night he was playing it and he couldn't wait, of course to get a guitar. Garlands father bought him a used Encore steel-string when Hank was six, and young Garland began taking lessons from one Mr. Fowler, who taught him basic chords.

Hank was among the first true guitar virtuosos to emerge from the Nashville studios — a player who helped define the standards by which other Nashville session guitarists are judged.Garland epitomized the image of the Nashville picker: the guitarist able to walk into a studio, tune up, and hear a run-through of the songs to be recorded and invent a creative and sympathetic backing on the spot. The consummate musician who would leave the last session of the day for a night of jamming in a Printer's Alley nightclub. The inveterate experimenter interested in the latest guitar model and addicted to trying out new sounds, licks and devices and finally the person for whom the instrument was not just an end in itself, but a means to the end of creating something fantastic.

Hanks influence extended far beyond the studios of Nashville. His 1960 Jazz Winds from A New Direction had a considerable effect on players throughout the country. A young Pittsburgh R&B guitarist named George Benson was taken by it, as was another young musician from Mississippi who was into rock and blues. Bucky Barrett. Above all the LP gave Nashville musicians new admiration and stature in the jazz world. It was almost as if Garland had smothered the "hillbilly" stereotypes with chorus upon chorus of brilliant be-bop-flavored jazz. Before Hank Garland, the very idea of a steel guitarist recording with a jazz group would have been all but unthinkable.

Hank Garland's professional career spanned only 15 years, less than a third of his life. In 1961, at the age of 30, his dream of becoming "the best guitar player in the world" was shattered in a violent auto accident near Nashville. After lingering near death he began to recover, but the price paid was devastatingly high. Severe brain damage claimed most of his motor functions and coordination and his dreams of greater music to come seemed to have evaporated. Shortly thereafter he left Nashville never to return to the studios where he made his reputation as a country and jazz sideman on recordings by Elvis Presley, Rusty Draper, Jim Reeves, Don Gibson, Webb Pierce, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Charlie Rich, Patti Page, Jerry Lee Lewis and numerous others.This was not the end of the Hank Garland legend. Drawing upon vast determination and courage, he began relearning the guitar from scratch. Encouraged by his family particularly his brother Bill. It would be two years after the accident till he regained any command of the instrument and 13 more before he returned to Nashville for a brief appearance at the 1976 Fan Fair Reunion Show where his rendition of his 1949 composition "Sugarfoot Rag" delighted the ears of both performers and audience members. They could see and hear that while Hank Garland might not be returning the Nashville studios he had certainly returned given him one of the most uncertain and harrowing journeys any musician could ever make.

To learn more about Hank Garland, visit www.hankgarland.com

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