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Down through the decades, Jerry Byrd has recorded many instrumental singles and albums under his own name.
According to an informational release by Mercury Records, 1016 Melbourne Ave., N.E., Knoxville 17, Tennessee, Jerry Byrd's initial recordings with that label are as follows:
NOTE: The records listed in the "Nani Hawaii" album are 78 rpm format and are not available singly. They are however available in the 45 rpm speed as A-83 X45.
He has several cassettes and CD’s also to his credit. Each of
these musical releases is a true work of art and will be a welcome and
valued addition to your music library, regardless of your preferred tastes.
Back during the late 1940's, a pop tune arrived on the scene entitled
"Swiss Woodpecker". It was recorded by none-other than Les Paul and to hear
it along side Jerry Byrd's own "Steelin' the Chimes" is a real eye-opener
but Jerry in 2001 explained it simply had to be a coincidence as he'd never
heard Les' record. Jerry didn't record his until in the 1950's.
As thrilled as I was to create this site, I was more
than apprehensive that Jerry might not like the idea.......thus, I called it
"the unofficial" Jerry Byrd web site. As it turned out, Jerry's brother
Jack, had already sent Jerry copies of the site before I communicated with
Jerry about it. Jerry was definitely humbled by this show of
admiration and stated quite simply that I was too old now for him to be
giving advice to. He said he wished I'd taken the money required to set it
all up and invest it in my lovely wife Sally or at least, some other venture
and not Jerry Byrd. He then ended the conversation with a comment about how
Jerry Byrd was "yesterday" and that he was not sure many people would share
my enthusiasm for the site.
The content on these pages will change at frequent intervals so come back
and visit us often so that you won’t miss a single tune on which Jerry has
given his all for our musical enjoyment.
This list, is never ending. Countless albums that I’ve never heard of,
were recorded by Jerry Byrd after his move to Honolulu, back in the early
1970’s where he continued to record with the island greats. The
greatest minds estimate that Jerry did no fewer than 43 albums with Hawaiian
artists alone; more, than any other steel guitarist.
Jerry told me how he used a complete set of his old Fan Club's
Journals, provided by Lorene Rymore, of British Columbia, Canada, as a year
by year diary of his activities for preparation of his book. He was
amazed that each and every volume was in pristine condition. Wally
Pfeifer of Joliet, IL, also had a set covering about 15 years.
Jerry laughingly commented that there were even some photo's of Ray Montee
in those old fan club journals.
While most of us Jerry Byrd fans have devoted much of our lifetime to seeking out any/all records on which Jerry recorded...the really big hits and even the not-so famous recordings, Jerry told me in a conversation on December 17, 2003, that during his last years in Nashville he was generally disinterested in the music he was putting forth and spent very little time listening to any that he had recorded.
In fact, as startling as it might seem, Jerry revealed to me that he "Can't stand his latest CD 'By Request'.............." He admitted that he occasionally listens to a copy of it, once and awhile, but he still doesn't like it. In his opinion, the sound was not what it should've been. Although he had been there during the final mix, he had failed to do anything about it at that time and felt badly about it at the time of his passing.
In fact, Jerry's two daughters had no idea what he did for a living, musically, until they attended Antioch High School. One day in about 1965-66, one of their teachers, a Mr. George G. Harris, was making conversation during a study hall when he realized the girl he was talking to had the same last name as Jerry so asked her if she was possibly related to that fabulous steel guitar player named Jerry Byrd. It was only then that the girls discovered that their father was a world famous, professional musician. (see Guestbook)
I managed to get Jerry into a "memory mood" on one occasion at which time he disclosed to me that his first recording session was on Majestic label and recorded in the WSM Radio studios. He did this session using his newly created C6th tuning and the artist was blind singer Pete Cassels. Jerry admired Pete and considered him to be one of the finest singers of that day. He spoke fondly of their musical relationship...............
Songs from that early recording session include:
Occasionally these tunes will appear on old record or collector sites.
Jerry at one time did acknowledge he had played in a five piece group while Nashville, just for fun. He wanted to experience the freedom of getting to play off the cuff without the stress so often a part of studio session work, live radio and/or television.
Jerry went on to recall that he was once asked if he ever did any recording with Fred Lowery, a famous "whistling" recording artist of the day. Jerry was quite adamant in denying any such musical collaboration. The next thing he knew, the persistent fan presented him with a copy of the record and he was stunned to discover that it was indeed himself, playing steel on that record. Jerry has always insisted that he had had the good fortune of being very busy and doing lots of session work and as a result, simply was unable to recall each and every session, artist or song on which he appeared.
Jerry did mention that he was not a drummer enthusiast. He always felt that they were working against you, not with you. He admitted that light brushes were okay but repetitive rim-shots "were terrible". In his own words he stated that they were about as subtle as a canon.
He recalled an incident from the Grand Ole Opry when Harold Weekly, who used to standup and play the snare drum with brushes, asked Grandpa Jones, if Jones wanted the drums on his next number. Grandpa responded with: "Very little, ...............if any". Jerry said the whole stage erupted in convulsive laughter.
One of the reasons he enjoyed his move to Hawaii so much, was the simple fact he was able to play what he wanted, the way he wanted and with truly great musicians that loved what they were doing as much as did he.
One of Jerry's greatest treasures was destroyed by Jerry in a house-cleaning move; this being a folder full of receipts for his session work, etc. He explained that once he got his money for each session, that job was complete and over with.
Quite possibly one of the greatest historical treasures that remains, is in the display at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance where they have a book full of Jerry's pay receipts, programs and the like.
For those of you that have followed Jerry Byrd during his lengthy musical career, you are likely well aware of the lead guitarist that was featured so prominently with Jerry. His name was "Zeke" Turner and he did lots of twin-guitar work with Jerry on those early Mercury releases with the String Dusters. He was also quite prominent on those early Hank Williams tunes, pickin' out those great 'boogie' riffs.
Jerry and I got to talking about Zeke one day as I'd always been curious about their musical relationship; how it was that they went their separate ways after all those great years together.
Jerry laughed and described Zeke as a funny sort of guy. Jerry said Zeke played a huge Epiphone guitar and had, at some earlier date, cut a huge, square hole out of the back of it, presumably to get inside to the electronics/wiring or whatever and never bothered to patch it back up.
Perhaps even more strange......Zeke Turner wasn't really Zeke Turner at all, but rather James Cecil Grishaw, brother to Zeb Turner, who was actually William Edward Grishaw. The boys used to do a "brothers" act so that's why Zeb also changed his name to "Turner".
The last Jerry had heard, Zeke had been living in Florida and was driving a truck up until his passing a few years back. In all of those intervening years, they never managed to get together.
Jerry then sorta drifted off.......and mentioned how in those days, he used to go into the studio and sit his "Volu-Tone" amp on a chair, lean it back and stick a microphone in front of it. "That's how we used to do it"........he recalled. Jerry was a staunch "union man" and always abided by their rules.
He explained that "a recording session" usually consisted of four songs to be completed in three hours. There was no rehearsal. The vocalist would go through it once or twice, so the musicians could formulate in their minds any loose arrangements that they might want to perform. The purpose for this was to keep the song "new" and "fresh". If the songs couldn't be recorded satisfactorily in the allotted time, it would be apparent that someone had the wrong musicians on hand. If over-time was necessary, it was done in half-hour blocks, as each session had to complete not less than four songs for a two disc package.
To highlight that remark, Jerry pointed out that his recording of "Steelin' the Blues" had been made-up during one of his sessions. His contract called for recording sessions each six months although it was a common practice for the big labels to hold-back release of his recorded material for as much as several years.
The record companies, back then, paid for the actual recording sessions, plus the writers and publishers fees. These costs were deducted from the royalties from actual record sales. A distributor forecast of one million copies was a necessity.
In today's' music environment, an artist is expected to sell a minimum of 100,000 copies in the first week or no deal.
Jerry also pointed out that with today's "kitchen table artists"....., and with the easy production of CD's, most of which are being sold at the artists' own appearances, there has become a market glut. He added, that today, too many of the wanna-be steel guitarists "only hear sound" and have no concept of what they're are trying to say with the instrument......thus, it's just so much picking. He forewarns that it does absolutely no good to try and tell some of these new folks anything worthwhile as you can't argue with a neophyte musician who already knows it all.
Jerry laughingly admitted that he is just now realizing profits from some of his recorded material that has taken years to pay-out the over-head. He ads that he never had the good fortune of being "a million seller" but is happy that his records continue to sell, all over the world, year after year.
He also pointed out that his "mood" was extremely important and had tremendous impact on what he "would or would not play" during a session. It was not uncommon for him to arrive at the studio with a particular song in mind only to find he was out of sorts with that tune, and he'd drop it completely for that session.
Yet, Jerry was very quick to say that although he was busy in the recording studios both day and night, he played every session from his inner-most feelings and his heart, regardless of who the artist was, whether a big name or a new comer. He did agree with my comments that some of his best back-up and/or solo work had been performed on the records of virtual "unknowns".
As a side note, Jerry mentioned that Marty Robbins, whom he admired very highly, often arrived at the studio without any idea whatsoever of what he was going to be recording that day. After two or three attempts, if it didn't sound right, Marty would simply forget it. He'd then busy himself at the piano, plunking out first one tune after another until he managed to settle his mind on a particular tune. I have an audio copy of one such session that is quite humorous and an excellent in-sight into what Jerry was verbally eliciting to.
Jerry then laughingly referred to Marty's recording of "El Paso", the only six minute song ever recorded and even longer than Hank William's "Love Sick Blues".
When a big orchestra was incorporated into a session, arrangements became a necessity. In the case of "Admirable Byrd", done in the E9th tuning, he devoted 7 or 8 hours "at home time" toward its preparation in order to minimize studio time and production costs. The rest of the time, the musicians would just wing it.
While discussing the recording sessions, Jerry did say that drums were not used back then. He personally had no use for "busy drums" and did not use them with his steel guitar work. Jerry always felt the drummers of the day, were working against him. Their solid rhythm sound was reliant on a strong guitar player like Homer Haynes (of Homer & Jethro fame). Louis Innis also played lots of rhythm but nothing like Homer did.
Jerry next mentioned that he had willed to "Scotty", his musical instruments and other misc. musical stuff. He had also gifted a life long friend and young school friend, with a number of his guitars and the like.
Jerry hated to travel with his guitar and amp as the airlines always managed to destroy some part of them. As some of you know, Jerry's Fender amp was totally destroyed in shipping to Scotty in St. Louis, following Jerry's passing. Such a musical and historic tragedy.
While discussing Tom Morrell's instrumental CD "No Pedals".......Jerry freely commented that in his opinion, Tom Morrell was without doubt, one of the greatest steel men in the business.
Should you have any questions, I’ll do my best to respond in a prompt
manner. You can write me here at the JBFC web site.