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Hank Garland: 1930-2004
Hank Garland

Born: November 11, 1930 in Cowpens, SC
Died: December 27, 2004 in Orange Park, FL

Rock-and-roll, jazz and country guitarist

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2004 Todd S. Jenkins

Guitarist Hank "Sugarfoot" Garland, whose wide range of talents brought him work with everyone from Charlie Parker and George Shearing to Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty, died from a staph infection at Florida's Orange Park Medical Center on December 27, 2004. He was 74 years old.

Garland was a child whiz who began playing on South Carolina radio shows at the age of twelve. By fourteen he was working professionally in Nashville, and soon scored a big country-crossover hit with "Sugar Foot Rag". He became one of the busiest session players in Nashville, backing Patsy Cline ("I Fall to Pieces"), young Presley ("Little Sister"), Twitty, Hank Williams and Brenda Lee. At the same time, Garland occasionally exercised his love of jazz in the company of Charlie Parker and George Shearing. His own album, Jazz Winds from a New Direction (1961, Columbia), with bassist Joe Benjamin, drummer Joe Morello, and young vibraphonist Gary Burton, excitingly demonstrates his capabilities as a jazz guitarist.

Garland's stellar career came to a halt in 1961, when he was critically injured in a car accident while filming Presley's "Follow That Dream". He suffered serious brain injuries and endured a long period of rehabilitation that included relearning the guitar along with walking and talking. He was never able to fully overcome the blow, battling both recurrent illnesses and legal battles over royalty payments for the rest of his life. At the time of his death Garland had been negotiating over the movie rights to his story.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.


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