Jerry Byrd – Byrd’s Expedition
■ The first comprehensive release of the legendary lap steel guitarist's celebrated MERCURY instrumentals.
■ Packed with 30 tracks, digitally remastered from the bestavailable source material.
■ Features stellar support from guitarists Zeke Turner and Chet Atkins.
If pedal steel virtuosos Speedy West, Buddy Emmons, and Bud Isaacs played to your head and your feet, then lap steel master Jerry Byrd (1920-2005) played to your heart.
DeWitt Scott, the late founder of Steel Guitar International in St. Louis, honored him as "the master of touch and tone." Jim Crockett, longtime editor of 'Guitar Player' magazine, hailed him as "the last great non-pedal steel guitarist." Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead once flew to
Honolulu, hoping Byrd would take him on as a student. So did blues player Jimmie Vaughn and his celebrated younger brother, Stevie Ray. While Byrd has been well-represented on compact discs, those releases primarily capture an older, contented artist entertaining tourists in Waikiki lounges. Some reissues reflect Byrd's years on MONUMENT RECORDS, mostly ambitious "space age pop" productions that show their age.
For decades, steel guitar enthusiasts and country record collectors have longed for a reissue of Byrd's timeless country material, particularly the instrumentals he recorded for MERCURY between 1949 and 1954. The majority of them appear here, along with a healthy sampling of Byrd's Hawaiian stylings. No reissue of Byrd's MERCURYs would be complete without Steelin' The Blues and its vocal refrain by Western balladeer Rex Allen.
The earliest sides feature Byrd's Cincinnati-based band, including Zeke Turner on electric lead guitar, Louis Innis on rhythm guitar and Tommy Jackson on fiddle. This band helped define the classic "honkytonk" sound that dominated country music from 1947 until the mid-1950s. It appeared on such juke-box hits like Red Foley's Tennessee Saturday Night and Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues. The later sides capture Byrd's early Nashville years, often with support from Chet Atkins.
Dave Samuelson's notes provide an overview of Byrd's early fascination with the steel guitar, his years on radio and record, his eclipse by a young generation of Nashville pedal steel stylists, and his musical rebirth in the Hawaiian islands.
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 in Lima, Ohio, one of five siblings, his interest in the instrument began after a "tent show" when he was 12 and by 15 he was playing in bars. Although his initial interest was Hawaiian music much of his work was country. In 1944/1945 he joined the Grand Ole Opry. 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 ensuring 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.
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