Hank Garland: Lost Album of ’60

Fascinating that a musician of the caliber of Hank Garland (who was signed to Columbia, for cryin’ out loud) would release a companion album of sorts – Subtle Swing – to the groundbreaking (and previously discussed) Jazz Winds from a New Direction, and yet so little information to confirm its existence, aside from Sundazed’s 2004 vinyl reissue.

Poke around online and you will discover that Subtle Swing was tacked onto 2013’s CD reissue of Who Is Gary Burton? as an inducement for fans of the noted jazz vibraphonist — but at the expense of Hank Garland!

Gary Burton LPDig deeper still, and you will correctly deduce that Sony, in partnership with Sundazed, incorporated Hank’s entire Columbia output [1959’s Velvet Guitar + 1960’s Subtle Swing + 1961’s Jazz Winds + 1962’s Unforgettable Guitar] into a double compact disc, albeit in jumbled order, when issued in 2001.

Jazz Wax notes that the recording session for Subtle Swing took place six days after the Jazz Winds in a New Direction album had wrapped on August 24, 1960 (here we go again, an entire album recorded in a single day) although, it’s not quite true that the “same group” of musicians played on this follow-up album — only Garland and Burton remained from Jazz Winds.

Check out the stereo drums that kick off album closer, “Call D. Law” – a clever bit of wordplay that also pays tribute to Columbia boss and benefactor, Don Law :

“Call D. Law”     Hank Garland     1960

Hank Garland:  Guitar
Gary Burton:  Vibraphone
Bob Moore:  Bass
Doug Kirkham & MurreyBuddyHarman:  Drums
Bill Pursell:  Piano
Don Law:  Producer

The CD liner notes by the indispensible Rich Kienzle sheds light on the special reasons underlying Subtle Swing‘s obscurity.

“Six days later, Hank returned to the studio for two days to produce a jazzy album for the song licensing firm SESAC, who produced country and gospel recordings for the radio stations that took licenses with the company.  This session was geared as much to the radio market as it was to the jazz audience.  The band, however, was strictly Nashville, including Burton, Bob Moore, pianist Bill Pursell, and drummer Doug Kirkham, who’d worked with Hank in Billy Burke’s combo.

If Jazz Winds emphasized Hank in a [Tal] Farlowesque context, the ten-song SESAC effort, released to clients under the title Subtle Swing, reflected the influence of pianist George Shearing’s Quintet.  Programming requirements seemingly mandated no songs longer than four minutes.  It’s a Garland-Burton effort all the way.”

Rare original copy of 1960 SESAC album — sold for $47 in 2004

Hank Garland - original 1960 cover“Now that the Hank Garland Quintet is a ‘fait accompli’ on SESAC Recordings, the young guitarist stands in the unique position of moulding a new career on the firm foundation of his C&W successes.  With a patient hand and perceptive musicianship, he has unified the instrumental skills of five performers to produce these refreshing sounds.  The “subtle swing” which has always been a vital part of Garland’s playing transcends his newest contribution to musical entertainment.”  [liner notes from the back cover]

But tragedy would intervene in Garland’s life when a blown rear tire resulted in a serious accident that would leave him permanently impaired.  1962’s Unforgettable Guitar of Hank Garland would essentially be a repackaging of the SESAC recordings — his musical career forever halted.  In 1992, Bear Family would gather Garland’s 1940s & 50s Decca recordings, including a pair of excellent unissued tracks from 1957, “Baby Guitar” and “Hank’s Dream.”

2004 reissue — “designed for repeated listening” as the original LP promised

Hank Garland LP-a

“All the Things You Are”: West Coast Jazz from … Hank Garland?

Fascinating to consider that Mr. “Sugarfoot Rag” himself, Hank Garland, would go on later to record one of the smoothest, coolest West Coast modern jazz albums — in fact, the very same one that inspired George Benson.  Check out the kick-off tune:

Jazz Winds from a New Direction would feature the top-notch playing of Gary Burton on vibraphone, drummer Joe Morello (of the Dave Brubeck Quartet), and Joe Benjamin (sideman for Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Burrell, and Roland Kirk, et al.) on string bass

Hank Garland originally made acquaintance with drummer, Joe Morello, when both worked for bandleader, Paul Howard, as part of his Arkansas Cotton Pickers who, as Rick Kienzle points out in his liner notes to the CD reissue, “were a Western Swing outfit, playing the same unorthodox mix of country, pop, and jazz that Bob Wills played in the Southwest.”  Hank Garland, by the way, joined Paul Howard’s band when he was just 15.

Kienzle also points out that after Hank’s family – based in Cowpens, South Carolina – decided to make the big move to Nashville, Hank found “kindred spirits” with Billy Byrd and Harold Bradley, who “took him in under their wing.”  Garland would later leave Howard to join the backing band for Cowboy Copas before eventually signing with Decca in 1949 as Hank Garland and His Sugar Footers.  His first recording session (May 1949) would yield “Sugarfoot Boogie,” while his second (August 1949) would produce the much better-known “Sugarfoot Rag.”

At the same time, Garland would also join the “elite A-team, a cadre of creative, versatile musicians every producer wanted to use.  Hank was part of that group’s core, along with fellow guitarists Grady Martin and Harold Bradley, drummer Buddy Harman, bassist Bob Moore, saxophonist Boots Randolph, and pianist Floyd Cramer.”

Hank Garland LP“The respect from producers paid off in March, 1959,” Kienzle writes, “when Don Law signed Hank to a one-year Columbia contract with two one-year options” (as history would show, Columbia exercised both of those options).   Jazz Winds – recorded in August 1960 – would be the second album in his tenure at almighty Columbia, with Grady Martin at the helm as producer.

Interesting to note that John Hammond, who wrote “enthusiastic” liner notes for the Jazz Winds album, would produce the debut (and only) Columbia album by Garland admirer, George Benson six years later.

Hank & Faron on “Ozark Jubilee”

Great live performance of Hank playing “Sugarfoot Rag” on the “Ozark Jubilee” TV show hosted by Faron Young:

Hank & Grady:  “Ozark Jubilee” Connection Runneth Deep

The “Ozark Jubilee” house band was first known as The Crossroads Boys  and consisted of Grady Martin, Billy Burke, Bud Isaacs, Tommy Jackson, Paul Mitchell, Jimmy Selph, Bob Moore and Mel Bly.   The name, however, was soon changed to Bill Wimberly and His Country Rhythm Boys, a seven-piece group that alternated weekly during 1955 with Grady Martin and His Wingin’ Strings, featuring Bob Moore, Tommy Jackson, Bud Isaacs and Hank Garland.

“Gibson Girl”: Actually, Billy Byrd’s a Gibson Guy

Guitarist Billy Byrd – according to Ernest Tubbs‘ biographer, Ronnie Pugh – ”came from a pop and jazz background, and there were some people who were leery of the notion that he could play country with Tubb.  [But] he did it and did it well.  The ten years Billy was in the [Texas Troubadours] band, (1949-59) he did practically all of the instrumental breaks.”

Billy Byrd

Sometime in October 1961, Billy Byrd recorded six songs at the Starday Sound Studio in Nashville – including “Gibson Girl“:

“Gibson Girl”     Billy Byrd    1961

Billy Byrd + Hank Garland = Gibson Byrdland

With the input of guitar greats, Billy Byrd and Hank Garland, Gibson’s then-President, Ted McCarty, developed and debuted the Gibson Byrdland electric archtop guitar in 1955, three years before the better-known ES-335.  Gibson.com points out that the Byrdland was reintroduced as a limited run in 1977, 1978 & 1992 – primarily as a result of the popularity of Ted Nugent, who himself wielded a Byrdland in tribute to Jimmy McCarty of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.

Gibson Byrdland