Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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

Guitarist Billy Byrd – according to Ernest Tubb‘s 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.”

(image courtesy of Discogs)

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)

This exquisite guitar instrumental can only be found on Starday’s 1962 LP Tennessee Guitar — “14 instrumentals featuring the artistry of America’s foremost guitar stylists” — where Byrd rubs shoulders with Jimmy Capps, Hardrock Gunter, Tommy Hill, Eddie Eddings, Thumbs Carlisle (Carllile), and ArthurGuitar BoogieSmith.

Tennessee Guitar — which contains one other Billy Byrd recording, “Teen Age Blues” — was repackaged in 1965 as Country Guitar (“special collectors edition”) and released on Starday’s Nashville subsidiary label.  The back cover includes photos of Hardrock Gunter, Jimmy Capps (with Ira & Charlie Louvin), and Billy Byrd with Ernest Tubb, plus biographical thumbnails of each artist on the album penned by Starday president, Don Pierce.

Billy Byrd

From Don Pierce’s liner notes

Billy Byrd, has long been identified with Ernest Tubb and his famous Texas Troubadours, having played lead electric guitar with the group for many years on the Grand Ole Opry, and throughout the United States and Canada on personal appearances.  He has recorded guitar albums in his own right for other labels and he has developed an identifiable country music guitar sound.

LP back cover photo

Prior to his short stint with Starday, Byrd had been with newly-founded Warner Brothers long enough to record one full-length album, 1959’s I Love A Guitar – Play It Pretty, which was issued two years later in the UK as a four-song EP. 



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. 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


LINK to Country Jazz on Zero to 180

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One Response

  1. I my self knowing the kneck of a guitar is not made for hugging but is made to play out lyrics riffs runs harmonics and to restring and tune, but billy byrd could get more and better sound out of a Gibson guitar than any body I ever had heard, his noteing very unique a style that you don’t hear any more of, one reason theirs really nobody can do it, like billy byrd did he hardly ever looked down at his fingers when he was playing lead guitar for ernest tubb? to me he was and still is one of the greatest guitar players in the history of a guitar long lives his name and music – bobby self

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