Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Guitars Of Country Music - Part Three

WWII soldiers listening to a radio

For Country Music, one of the results of World War Two was the massive increase in listeners. Radio transcripts of all types of  broadcasts were delivered to the European and Pacific fronts for the morale of those fighting the war.

My own father, who was stationed near the southern German border was exposed to ‘Hillbilly’ music from his troop members from Kentucky, and listening to broadcast transcriptions from WSM.

Owen Bradley

By the time the war ended, Nashville was fast becoming a Mecca for Country artists. Owen Bradley, who was a music arranger, and songwriter for Decca Records was already recording music with some great artists, such as Ernest Tubb, Burl Ives, Kitty Wells, and Red Foley.

Historic Castle Recording Studios
Castle Studio, where Decca artists recorded with announced that it was closing it's Nashville facility, and moving to Texas,

Bradley had learned enough about the industry and decided to open his own shop. He purchased a home on 16th Avenue where the studio was built.

Quonset Hut Studios
To add a second studio, he purchased a semi-circular aluminum structure called a Quonset hut.

These were temporary buildings used during the war, and were being sold as war surplus. This structure abutted the original building and the endeavor became know as Quonset Hut Studios.  Late in 1956, major Country artists came here to record their songs.

RCA Studio B
This prompted RCA records to build the famous Studio B. It was originally run by Steve Shoales.  Later guitarist Chet Atkins was put in charge of production.

But it was Owen Bradly that is credited for creating what came to be known as ‘The Nashville Sound’ by adding lush string arrangements, and choral parts to Country Music songs.

Recording at The Quonset Hut
Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn, Faron Young, Eddie Arnold, Conway Twitty, and many others recorded music at Bradley’s studio.

Much of the music recorded there became hit songs that crossed over from Country to Popular music.

Bradley, figuring he was on to something, even tried to update some Jimmy Rodgers songs played by Moon Mullican, and songs by Bill Monroe to include the Nashville Sound.

Both his studio, and RCA employed some of Nashville’s greatest guitarists at the time as ‘session musicians’. In Nashville those session players were known as The A Team, long before the TV Show came out.

The A Team guitar section included Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Ray Edenton (also mandolin, ukulele, and banjo), Harold Bradley, Velma Williams Smith, Paul Yandell, Pete Wade, Jerry Kennedy, Norman Blake, Jimmy Capps, Spider Wilson, Fred Carter, Jr., Billy Sanford, Wayne Moss, Jimmy Colvard, and Chip Young.

Harold Bradley
One of these players was Owen Bradley’s brother, Harold Bradley, who came to be known as ‘The Most Recorded Guitarist of All Time’. He played a variety of guitars including Gibson acoustics, Fender electrics, a Danelectro 12 string called a Bellzouki.

He was especially known for adding the 'tic-tac' bass line to songs by using a Danelectro six string bass guitar. Harold Bradley went on to develop RCA's studio B.

Hank Garland with
his Gibson Byrdland
Hank Garland, was a prolific guitarist who played on thousands of recordings. He was a star and a well known recording artist in his own right. Garland wrote and recorded the popular ‘Sugarfoot Rag’, and played guitar on literally thousands of sessions backing other artists.

Hank Garland with Byrdland #2
Garland is probably best known for his Gibson Byrdland model guitar, that was co-designed with Country guitar player Billy Byrd. It was the first thinline model produced by Gibson, and by request it featured a 23 i/2" short scale and narrow neck, that was only 1 5/8" at the nut. Hank's original model #2 came with two P-90 pickups.

Hank Garland Byrdland #3

He then ordered the #3 model with a cherry finish, and a Charlie Christian pickup in the neck position. Because of the scale being almost 2" shorter than the standard L-5, the Byrdland's only had 20 frets.

Garland's Epiphone

Garland played a variety of guitars that were mostly manufactured by Gibson. These included the 1940's Epiphone Xpher with 'Sugarfoot' inscribed on the pickguard.

Gibson ES-345 and EB-6 Bass Guitar
Also an early non-cutaway Gibson L-5 with a Charlie Christian pickup, a prototype Gibson ES-345, and a matching Gibson EB six string bass, a 1957 Gibson L-7 with a Charlie Christian pickup, and a Gibson ES-175.

His career was tragically cut short in 1961 following a car accident.

Garland played through a Standel amp, and an Echosonic amplifier made by Ray Butts. You can hear Hank on Patsy Cline's recording, 'Walking, After Midnight'. That is Hank Garland's guitar you hear every Christmas on 'Jingle Bell Rock'.

The Everly Brothers with
 Chet Atkins and Hank Garland
Chet Atkins was already famous for his thumb picking style of guitar playing. As mentioned after he was signed to record at RCA, and was promoted by Steve Shoales to manage the studio. Chet can be heard on records by The Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, Jim Reeves, Porter Wagoner, Hank Snow, Kenny Price, and many other recordings.

Chet Atkins with
Gretsch 6120

Back in the day, Atkins used Gretsch guitars. His first was a Gretsch single cutaway 6120.

Chet with D'Angelico Excel

His first electric guitar that he used with The Carter Sisters was the very first D'Angelico Excel electric guitar, that he modified by adding a P-90 pickup and a vibrato bar.

The Peaver
Chet also used an unusual guitar that was put together by his friend Paul Yandell. This was called 'The Peaver'. It was a Peavey T-60 body, with a Fender Stratocaster neck. The guitar has two EMG single coil pickups that were wired to a phase switch. The pickups were placed strategically in the middle and bridge positions. This was done because on a traditional Stratocaster, the neck pickup is placed in a section that makes it virtually impossible to get a harmonic note. Atkins used this guitar only on a few songs.

Gibson Phasor

Gibson built him a similar guitar they called The Phasor.  He owned one of the first Echosonic amplifiers. Later on he used Standel amps with an Echoplex, and much later relied on MusicMan amps with a digital echo unit. In the 1960's he worked with Gretsch to design some amplifiers.

Grady Martin with a Bigsby Guitar
Grady Martin was also an amazing guitar player. His guitar work can be heard on the Marty Robbins recording, ‘The Streets of El Paso’. Grady also played guitar on Coal Miners Daughter, Help Me Make It Through The Night, and his that is his guitar you hear on Roy Orbision's 'Pretty Woman'. Martin is also partially credited for developing the 'fuzz' effect during a Marty Robins recording. 

There was a faulty tube in the mixing console, that caused the part he was playing to be distorted. The producer liked the effect, and recording engineer Glenn Snoddy, back traced what had happened and went on to design the Maestro Fuzztone.

Grady Martin on the left - El Paso
Grady Martin seemed to favor guitars that were handmade by Paul Bigsby. In addition to the one in the above photo, he is usually seen playing a Bigsby double neck. He also used a custom made 1957-58 Gretsch Country Gentleman. 

Grady Martin with
Gibson ES-345 12 string

He played a borrowed Martin on 'El Paso' and did the guitar fills in one take. Martin used a Gibson ES-345, and a Gibson ES-345 12 string on some recordings. Grady Martin played recordings and  concerts backing artists from Ernest Tubb to John Prine.

Paul Yandell
Paul Yandell went on to be Chet Atkins accompanist in concerts and television appearances. He started out by backing The Louvin Brothers in concerts, the went on to play guitar for Kitty Wells, and back up Jerry Reed. He worked for Chet Atkins from 1975 until Chet passed away in 2001.

Paul Yandell with a
Gibson Country Gentleman
He favored the same Gretsch guitars that Chet was using. However when Gretsch went out of business, both he and Chet played Gibson's Country Gentleman versions.  Paul was also instrumental in aiding Gretsch when they started building guitars again.

Jim Colvard

Jim Colvard had over 140 recordings that he was credited as being the guitarist. He was one of the first guitarists to play steel guitar lick on his six string guitar. 

Jim Colvard on the right
with Little Jimmy Dickens

Colvard backed up Wanda Jackson, Jimmy Dickens, and George Jones. He had his own trio that played in Nashville and his home town of Minneapolis. Colvard favored Gibson L-5 CES guitars.

Chip Young

Chip Young was a guitarist known for his thumb picking style of guitar playing, and he was a session player for many hits that included those made by Elvis, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton, and Billy Swan. Young was also a record producer.

Chip Young with his Super 400 CES

He played Martin and Gibson acoustic guitars, a Gibson Les Paul, and a Gibson Super 400 CES.

The Anita Kerr Singers
Both studios employed The Anita Kerr Singers, and the Jordanaires Gospel Quartet to provider backing vocals. String players from the Nashville Symphony were hired to play on the recordings.

It was during these days that Country Music became more ‘Pop’ music. The music coming out of Nashville now gained the reputation of being ‘Countrypolitan’.

Roy Orbison in RCA Studio B
 using a coat rack as a baffle

Not only did songs cross over to popular format radio, but some popular artists of the day came to Nashville to record. These included Elvis, Perry Como, The Everly Brothers, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, and Paul McCartney.

Willie Nelson In
His Nashville Days

Willie Nelson wrote so many hit songs that were sung by other artists, such as Crazy for Patsy Cline, Pretty Papers for Roy Orbison, Hello Walls for Faron Young, to name but a few. He tried desperately to fit in as a Nashville entertainer. Nelson dressed in Cowboy clothing, and combed his hair the right way. But Nelson realized he was never going to be the new Ernest Tubb.

Willy Nelson and Trigger
He packed up, shook the dust off, and headed to Austin, where he was embraced, and became an extremely popular entertainer. Nelson started off playing a Martin 000-28. He later struck up a deal with the up-and-coming Baldwin Piano Company, who just got into the guitar business.

Nelson with a Baldwin
Vibraslim - Getty Images
He started using a Baldwin Vibraslim electric guitar. Later on the company gave him a Baldwin Classical electric guitar, model 801CP, that was actually made by The Harmony Company. It had a unique piezo pickup that was called a Prismatone. They also gave him a Baldwin C-1 amplifier. This amplifier was unique since Bud Ross, the creator of Kustom amps, sold his solid state design to Baldwin. At a show, Willie Nelson set his guitar flat on the floor. Some drunk guy, that was anxious to meet him walked up on stage and stepped on the guitar, crushing it's body.

Willie Nelson's Trigger - Martin N-20
Willie took the broken instrument to Shot Jackson's music store. Jackson determined the guitar was beyond repair. He had a Martin N-20 in his shop, and discovered the Prismatone pickup would fit in the Martin.

Willie has beat this guitar to hell and back, but continues to use it. He named it 'Trigger' after Roy Roger's horse. Though he could afford a much better amplifier, he has used that Baldwin C-1 amp throughout his career.

Kris Kristofferson
Kris Kristofferson was well educated, a Rhodes Scholar, and after serving in the Army he went to West Point. He decided his first love was writing music. There were other circumstances, but Kristofferson wound up doing janitor work at a Nashville recording studio. Eventually some of his songs were recognized and recorded.

Kristofferson With His Gibson SJ
But the Nashville Sound just did not fit his style. Kristofferson is usually seen playing a Gibson SJ (Southern Jumbo) guitar. He also sometimes plays a Martin D-28.

Young Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings wrote music, and recorded in Texas at Norm Pettys’ studio. The same place where Buddy Holly got his start. Jennings famously played bass in Holly’s traveling band, after the split with The Crickets. He gave up his seat on Holly’s ill-fated flight. Waylon eventually moved to Nashville, and much like Willie, and Kris, he just did not fit in with The Nashville Sound.

Waylon Jenning's  1968 Telecaster

Like Holly, Waylon started out playing a 1956 Fender Stratocaster. But Waylon Jennings is best know for playing a Fender Telecaster that is wrapped in a leather covering. He had more than one Telecaster.

The one that he was usually seen playing is a stock 1968 sunburst Telecaster with a white pickguard, that he took to a leather saddle maker, who encased the guitar in a hand-tooled leather covering, etched with roses.  This was stitched on both sides. 

Waylon Jennings with 1953 Telecaster

Waylon's first guitar was a 1953 Telecaster with a black pickguard. Waylon sold this one early in his career. Waylon also favored Fender amplifiers, including a Fender Super Reverb, and the huge Fender Super Six Reverb, which had six 10 inch speakers.

Hillbilly Central
Recording Studi

Down the street from RCA’s studio B, and Quonet Hut, Tompall Glaser purchased a two story stucco building, that author Shel Silverstein dubbed ‘Hillbilly Central’. Tompall had been in a band called 'The Glaser Brothers'. Artists that desired for Country Music to return to its roots, began to flock to record their music at this small studio where clocks and budgets did not matter. The goal to record great music.

Tompall Glaser In The Studio
Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Billy Joe Shaver, Jimmy Buffet, John Hartford, and others began recording at this studio. Because these musicians broke out of the Nashville Sound mold, and because some had even been released from contracts with RCA, and Decca, Glaser’s secretary, Hazel Smith dubbed them as The Outlaws.

And the Outlaw movement in Country music began.

The Outlaws
Perhaps the most notable recording from this era was the album, ‘Wanted! The Outlaws’ that featured a wanted poster as a front cover that featured pictures of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser performing some of their own songs, and many songs written by others.

The Highwaymen
They later added Johnny Cash and put together a band, calling themselves The Highwaymen after one of the songs from the original record.

Despite taking the Nashville music industry by shock, the masters were sent to RCA for distribution.

It became the first Country Music album in history to reach platinum certification for selling over a million units. And this once again changed Country Music.

Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Guitars Of Country Music - Part Two

1940 WLW Boone County Jamboree

During the late 1930’s and '40's Hillbilly radio shows began springing up on stations all over the country.

These included stations in Kansas City’s KMBC with their Brush Creek Follies, WOWO in Ft. Wayne, Indiana with The Hoosier Hop, Cincinnati, Ohio’s Midwestern Hayride on WLW radio, which started as the Boone County Jamboree, The Old Domion Barn Dance from Virginia, St. Louis, Missouri’s Old Fashion Barn Dance, and Charlotte, North Carolina’s Crazy Barn Dance.

Following The Depression, and The Dust Bowl, times were  still bad, and folks could not afford records, but listening to the radio was free. As prices for receivers came down, more people owned a radio. Those that did not, visited their friends that had sets, especially on evenings when popular shows were airing.

Grandpa Jones without
and with makeup

One of the first entertainers that came out of this Post Depression Era, was Louis Marshall Jones. Although he was only in his 20’s, his voice, with it’s mountain-style delivery, sounded like he was an old man. He became known as Grandpa Jones, and was encouraged to dress the part with a false mustache and made up lines in his face when performing.

Ramona and Grandpa Jones
Grandpa Jones got his start on the WLS Barn Dance, and also on WLW’s radio shows.  Later on he was joined by his wife, Ramona Jones, who accompanied him on guitar. Though he usually played banjo, Grandpa also played guitar.

He favored a custom made guitar, model GC-70, made by J.W. Gallagher of Tennessee.

The WLS Barn Dance from Chicago

The WLS Barn Dance was by far the most popular program on Saturday nights during these days.

Red Foley with Gibson SJ-200

The show featured a number of up and coming Country Stars of the day, including Red Foley, who had a hit recording called Peace In The Valley. Foley hailed from Berea, Kentucky and was one of the featured acts at The Renfro Valley Barn Dance. He later was recruited by WLS radio. He played a variety of guitars, that included a Martin D-18, a Guild F-20, and a Gibson SJ-200.

Red Foley
Smooth Trailin' guitar

Many stars inspired companies to make cheap beginner guitars for aspiring young fans. Both Gene Autry and Roy Rogers had inexpensive instruments, and so did Red Foley.

Little Georgie Goebel

Another child star of that era was Little Georgie Goebel, who later became a popular comedian and singer, and had a television show.

Lilly May Ledford and
The Coon Creek Girls

Lilly May Ledford and The Coon Creek Girls, were an all-female Bluegrass act, that even entertained at the White House. They were another act that got their start at Kentucky's Renfro Valley Barndance.

The Coon Creek Girls
The group was made up of Lilly on clawhammer banjo and fiddle, and her sister Rosie Ledford playing guitar, and friends Evelyn 'Daisy' Lange who played upright bass, and Esther 'Violet' Koeler, who played mandolin.

Lilly May and Rosie Ledford

Rosie Ledford played a Martin 00-18, and a Gibson L-5 archtop.

Later on the quartet became a trio when Daisy, and Violet pursued other interests, and sister Susan Ledford was added as the mandolin player.

Gene Autry first crooned his Cowboy songs on WLS and this started a trend of Cowboy singers.  Country Music had moved from the hills of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia to the prairies of the West

Tex Ritter
Tex Ritter was another Cowboy singer, although he started out as a Broadway stage actor. While going to the University of Austin, he got interested in show business and music.He performed on the WHN Barn Dance from New York City.  Tex was in Western radio dramas and later acted in Western motion pictures. He seems to have favored the large Gibon SJ-200 guitars. He is seen in the photo with 'TEX' inlaid in the instruments headstock. He also played a Martin 00-28.

The Girls of The Golden West
 - Alamy photo

Dolly and Millie Good (actually Goad) performed as The Girls Of The Golden West. They became the archetype for other female Country singers. One of their biggest hits was 'Ragtime Cowboy Joe'. Though they were both from Illinois, they made up a story, and they stuck to it, telling folks that they were both from Muleshoe, Texas.

The Girls of the Golden West
Dolly played guitar and started with a Martin 00-18S, she is also seen with an unidentified archtop. However they are shown in a photo holding a late 1930's rare Gibson 'Century of Progress' guitar.

Patsy Montana
Ruby Blevins from Arkansas changed her name to Patsy Montana, and became a sensation with her group, The Prairie Ramblers, and her yodeling song, ‘I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart’. She was friends with the Good sisters. She auditioned at a Chicago radio station to be a crooner, but the producer decided she would be a better Country artist, and he teamed her up with a group. She became a regular on WLS.

Patsy Montana with a Gibson LG-3

She played a variety of guitars, that include Martin 00-28S, a Martin D-18, and a 1950's Gibson LG-3.

Country Music was fast developing a Texas slant.

The Light Crust Doughboys
In the early 1940’s Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys added an element of Swing Music to the mix. Wills actually started the group in the early 1930’s called The Light Crust Dough Boys to play on a Texas radio station.

They eventually became The Playboys, and the Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.

Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys
This group had a fiddle, played by Wills, a stride piano, guitars, tenor banjo, electric steel guitar and bass. Later on trumpets, clarinets, and saxophones were added, and the guitars all became electric. Eventually several more fiddle players were added to the group.

Bob Wills on the left

Wills was the leader, the fiddle player and definitely the man in charge.  He hired some great singers to front the group. This group changed the course of Country Music.

Eldon Shamblin

Willis band included several excellent guitar players. that mainly came from a Jazz background. These included Eldon Shamblin, who was a jazz player, and used a Gibson ES-125 with a Charlie Christian pickup.

Shamblin with his Stratocaster

One a tour to California, Leo Fender gave him  one of the first Fender Stratocasters to try out. It was a demonstration model, and it had been painted gold. Shamblin played it for the rest of his career, and never had it repainted.

JImmy Wyble

Jimmy Wyble also played electric guitar in The Playboys. He was also a jazz player, and used a number of different guitars that included Gibsons, Epiphone, Hofners, and even a Fender Esquire. 

He is shown here with a beautiful Magnatone amplifier, and what appears to be a Magnatone guitar.

Junior Barnard with Epiphone Regent
Junior Barnard was also a guitarist with the Texas Playboys. Barnard became an inspiration for Charlie Christian, and even Junior Brown. Barnard was an incredibly gifted guitarist, and it is said that he played some of the best solos with the Texas Playboys.

Barnard's Epiphone Regent
Sadly he was killed in an auto crash when he was only 31 years old. He is known for playing his Epiphone Regent that had an add-on DeArmond pickup, plus an Epiphone steel guitar pickup through an Epiphone 15 watt amplifier.

Leon McAuliffe, and Noel Boggs, were the steel guitar players.

Wills had a jazz style that was unlike any Country Music played before. Al the players were expected to improvise a solo.

Wills most famous song was the beautiful New San Antonio Rose.

Meanwhile back at Nashville’s WSM radio, The Grand Ole Opry had become so popular for tourists and visitors that the station and National Life Insurance decided to purchased a Gospel tabernacle known as the Ryman Auditorium. This huge structure seated over 3000 people and folks flocked to it every Saturday night.

Pee Wee King and
The Golden West Cowboys
Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski grew up in Milwaukee and played accordion in polka bands. He decided that Cowboy Music was the way to earn a living. He had worked in Gene Autry's band and can be seen in some of the stars films. In fact it was Autry who gave him the name Pee Wee King.

Upon leaving Autry's group, King put together a band called The Golden West Cowboys.

Pee Wee King joined The Grand Ole Opry in 1937, and his group became revolutionary to The Opry, and Country Music, because it included electric Spanish and Steel guitars, and drums. Plus the musicians in his group were unionized, and paid, unlike some Opry performers.

But when King first became an Opry member, he was not allowed to use his trumpet player and drummer.

Following the death of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1945. the Ryman was closed for national mourning. However fans still showed up. So the Opry the staff asked Pee Wee if his band would play. He used his full band including drums and horns with no objections. Pee Wee King also was the man that recruited long time Opry member Roy Acuff.

Eddy Arnold

The Golden West Cowboys went on to back up other Nashville stars including Eddy Arnold. Arnold at first played a Martin 00-28S, and later a Gibson SJ-200 with his name inlaid on the fretboard.

Redd Stewart

The guitarist for the Golden Cowboys was Redd Stewart. He started as a teen with Pee Wee King's group as their fiddle, and banjo player. He joined the Army in 1941.

By the time his service ended, Stewart filled a number of positions in The Golden West Cowboys by playing fiddle, and banjo, and later he played guitar, and electric bass.

 Stewart's Epiphone Rivera
Much of his guitar work was done with a Martin DM-3 model acoustic guitar, a 1966 Epiphone Rivera, a Peavey T-60 solid body guitar, a Peavey T-20 bass guitar, and for amplifiers he used a 1960's Fender Super Reverb, and later a Peavey TKO amplifier. Stewart is responsible for a number of songs, but his most famous is Tennessee Waltz.

Hank Williams
One of the most iconic Country singers/songwriters/guitarists was Hank Williams. He recorded 35 Top Ten single recordings. Thirty recording were released during his lifetime and five were released after his early and tragic death.

As a kid, Hank (born Hiram) Williams met a Blues player named Rufus Payne who gave him guitar lessons in exchange for meals, or sometimes money.

In the mid-1930’s, Williams yearned to be on the radio like his hero Roy Acuff, so he took his old Silvertone guitar and stood on the sidewalk in front of radio station WSFA, and started singing for anyone that would listen.

Young Hank Williams

Hank had recently won a local music competition.  Folks hearing him began phoning the station, asking about ‘The Singing Kid’. So the station invited him in to perform on the air. He eventually landed a 15 minute radio show, and was paid $15 a week.

Hank Williams and
The Drifting Cowboys

Williams later relocated to Montgomery, Alabama,  where he got married, and joined The Louisiana Hayride. He put together a band that he called The Drifting Cowboys. And they began to travel the southern United States.

Williams suffered from severe back pain all of his short life and to ease it, he drank.

By 1940, Most of his band members were drafted into the Army during WWII. Hank was deferred because of his back problems. Due to his chronic alcoholism, Williams lost his job with the radio station, but he continued to make hit records.

Williams in Cincinnati at WCKY
In 1947 he went to Cincinnati’s Herzog recording studio and recording Lovesick Blues, Your Cheatin’ Heart, Hey Good Lookin’, and I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry. He was sent to Cincinnati because Fred Rose's band, The Pleasant Valley Boys, lived and worked in this area. Rose knew how good they were and wanted them to back up Williams.

I will interject here that Cincinnati was THE place to go to make records before Nashville became THE place. This was due to the efforts of a couple of men.

King Records - Cincinnati Ohio

Syd Nathan owned a record store, and sold used juke boxes to restaurants. Nathan decided to stock the juke boxes with his own records, and established King Records.

Country singers, and bands such as The Delmore Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Grandpa Jones, Flatt and Scrugs, and many others came to Cincinnati to record and have their records made.. Since Syd Nathan did not have a studio until late in 1947, he sent these acts to Herzog. King Records could press the vinyl, take cover photos, and package the records.

Herzog Studio

 Earl T. Buckey Herzog was a radio engineer at WLW radio, who had rented part of a building near the station, and set up a recording studio. Many of the performers on WLW went there to record. This included Hank William. The tapes were sent to King Records, where they were pressed, packaged, and shipped to stores.

Nashville recording studio founder Owen Bradley, was a driving force to make Nashville the home of Country Music recording, and his initial goal was to keep the hometown musicians from going to Cincinnati.

Hank had auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, but was rejected. However he did meet Roy Acuff, who liked his music, and voice, but hated his alcoholism. This got him an appointment to meet Acuff partner in music publishing, Fred Rose.

Hank Williams on
the Grand Ole Opry
Rose immediately loved his songs, and voice. Williams was then hired by MGM Records. By 1949, he cleaned up enough to join the Opry.

Hank Williams continued to travel, do shows, write music, and record up through 1952. He died on New Years Day in 1953, in the back of his Cadillac while traveling to a show in Canton, Ohio. He was only 29 years old. During his career Williams played a variety of guitars.

S.S. Stewart Archtop

Though we don't know anything about his Silvertone, we do know that when he showed up to play songs for Fred Rose he did not have a guitar. So Rose gave his $20, and Williams found an S.S. Stewart Archtop that he purchased for $14.  Fred Rose later gave this guitar to his daughter. It is currently on sale at Carter Vintage Instruments in Nashville for $175,000.

Hank with a Martin D-18

Hank also used a Martin D-18.

Hank Williams D-28

For most of his life and career he used a Martin D-28.

Hank with Gibson Southern Jumbo

In the 1950's Hank is seen with a Gibson Southern Jumbo SJ guitar.

Hank with Epiphone Triumph

Some time in 1952 Hank used an Epiphone Triumph guitar that was outfitted with a DeArmond pickup.

Songs just poured out of Hank Williams. Jimmy Dickens recalled riding in a car with Williams when Hank told him, 'You need a number one hit, I'll write it for you'. About an hour later Hank handed him a piece of paper with the lyrics of Hey Good Lookin' on it.  Later on, and before Dickens had a chance to record it, Williams recorded it and had a number one record. Hank was so good, and so proficient with writing songs he became known as The Hillbilly Shakespeare.

By 1953, Hank was gone, and Country Music was changing once again. We will delve into that in The Guitars of Country Music - Part Three.

Click on the links below the pictures for sources.  Click on the links in the text for more information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)