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Published on June 10th, 2013 | by Sam


Billy Byrd Intro Solos

Billy Byrd is one of the unsung heroes of country guitar.  He held the guitar post in Ernest Tubb’s band from 1949-1959, and later in the 60s and 70s. He was a session player in Nashville for years.   His playing in Tubb’s band catapulted the electric guitar to a main role in country music.  He was a contemporary of Chet Atkins, Hank Garland, and Merle Travis.

Byrd’s playing isn’t the typical country hot shot guitar playing we’re used to these days in country music.  In fact, Byrd seems to be a perfect example of a country player approaching his solos from a jazz perspective.  He hardly uses licks and doesn’t use the flashy, fast licks that seem to define country guitar playing.   His solos typically use material from the melody of the song.  They are always clean cut, concise, and melodic.  It’s a great template for any solo!

Billy Byrd also known for co-designing the Byrdland guitar with Hank Garland.  His sound is very mellow, probably because of the hollowbody guitar he used.  I’ve included YouTube videos in this lesson because sifting through the hundreds of Ernest Tubb compilations looking for the right recordings.

Thanks a Lot

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Byrd’s intro solo on this tune is vaguely reminiscent of Luther Perkins’
playing with Johnny Cash, but with a far more refined melodic sense.  Byrd uses the eighth notes on G to begin each of the first three phrases.  Notice how he uses chord tones – resolving on the B for the 2nd bar (during a G chord), and resolving to the E in bar 4 (during a C chord).  In bars 7 to 8 the chords move from the V chord (D) to the I chord (G).  Byrd uses a nice double stop moving down chromatically resolving on the G and B, the root and third of the chord.  He ends the solo with a scale run moving up from the 5th to the tonic.

Billy Byrd intros

Careless Darlin’

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Careless Darlin’ features another great intro solo by Byrd.  This one is actually very similar to the solo on “Thanks a Lot.”  It’s also in G, and resolves to the chord tones in a very similar way.  Check out Byrd’s repeating motive in bars 1 and 5.  The ending uses a nice lick with a line resolving to the third of the chord (B) and jumping up to the high tonic.

Billy Byrd intros

Last Blue Yodel

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The final solo we’ll look at is from Tubb’s recording of Jimmie Rodgers’ classic, “Last Blue Yodel.”  This solo is over a D chord and has some impeccable phrasing.  The short solo is based on the root, then the fifth, and finally the higher 3rd.

Billy Byrd intros

I hope you enjoyed getting to know one of country music’s greatest guitarists a little better.  If you could, please Tweet or give the article a Facebook like or share, I’d really appreciate it!

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One Response to Billy Byrd Intro Solos

  1. Robert Fox says:

    I am looking for Billy Byrd’s recordings as a solo artist.I will appreciate it very much if anyone can tell me where to find them.

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