Charlie Lee Byrd was a famous American classical and jazz guitarist born on September 16, 1925 in Suffolk, Virginia. He is better known as Charlie Byrd.

Charlie Byrd learnt to play acoustic steel guitar when he was 10 from his father, who was a mandolin player. Charlie Byrd had three brothers and one of his brothers Joe Byrd was a fellow musician. He joined the ‘Virginia Polytechnic Institute’ in 1942 where he played in a school orchestra. During the World War II he played in an Army Special Services band in Europe and returned back to New York. He joined ‘Harnett National Music School’ in Manhattan, New York and learnt jazz theory and composition.

Charlie Byrd - American Classical and Jazz Guitarist
Charlie Byrd - American Classical and Jazz Guitarist

In 1950, Charlie Byrd moved to Washington DC where he learnt classical guitar. He became the student of ‘Andres Segovia’, a Spanish Classical guitarist in Italy in 1954. Byrd formed a jazz trio and started performing in local clubs. His trio was a mixture of blues, jazz and classical music.After a short trip to Italy Byrd returned back to Washington DC where he met double bassist Keter Betts in a club called ‘The Vineyard’ and both of them performed in many gigs in 1957. During this time he released ‘Blues For Night People’ and ‘Jazz rectical’. Byrd released ‘Jazz At The Showboat’ in 1958, ‘Guitar in the Wind’ in 1959, ‘Charlie’s Choice’ in 1960 and ‘Charlie Byrd at The Village Vanguard’ in 1961.

Charlie Byrd with his trio (which included bassist Keeter Betts, drummers Bertel Knox and Buddy Deppinschmidt) toured South America under the sponsorship of the State Department in 1962. He released the album ‘Jazz Samba’ with Stan Getz on February 13, 1962. This album made the landmark and was included on “Billboard’s” pop album chart.

Charlie Byrd continued to play and record from 1970s to 1990s. He formed the ‘Great Guitars’ group with the guitarists Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis and drummer Johnny Rae in 1973.

Charlie Byrd died of cancer in 1999.

Some of his albums include:

  • ‘First Flight’, Jazz Recital’, ‘Blues for Night People’ and ‘Midnight Guitar’ in 1957
  • ‘Byrd’s Word’ in 1958
  • ‘Mr. Guitar’ in 1959
  • ‘The Guitar Artistry of Charlie Byrd’ in 1960
  • ‘Charlie Byrd at the Village Vanguard’ in 1961
  • ‘Latin Impressions’ in 1962
  • ‘Once More! Bossa Nova’ in 1963
  • ‘Charlie Byrd Trio at the Village Gate’ in 1964
  • ‘Brazilian Byrd’, ‘Travellin’ Man’, ‘The Touch of Gold’, ‘Byrd song’ and ‘Solo Flight’ in 1965
  • ‘Byrdland’ in 1966
  • ‘Hollywood Byrd’, More Brazilian Byrd’ and ‘Christmas Carols for Solo Guitar’ in 1967
  • ‘Delicately’ and ‘Hit Trip’ in 1968
  • ‘The Great Byrd’ in 1969
  • ‘Let It Be’ in 1970
  • ‘For All We Know’ in 1971
  • ‘The World of Charlie Byrd’ in 1973
  • ‘The Stroke of Genius’, ‘The New Wave’, ‘Byrd by the Sea’ and ‘Great Guitars’ in 1974
  • ‘Top Hat’ in 1975
  • ‘Charlie Byrd Swings Downtown’ in 1976
  • ‘Blue Byrd’ in 1978
  • ‘Sugarloaf Suite’ in 1979
  • ‘Great Guitars at the Winery’ in 1980
  • ‘Charlie Byrd Christmas Album’ in 1982
  • ‘Isn’t It Romantic’ in 1984
  • ‘Tango’ and ‘Byrd and Brass’ in 1986
  • ‘It’s a Wonderful World’ in 1988
  • ‘Rise and Shine’ in 1992
  • ‘Music to Dine By’ and ‘Aquarelle’ in 1993
  • ‘I’ve Got the World on a String’ and ‘Moments Like This’ in 1994
  • ‘Jazz & Samba’, ‘Du Hot Club De Concord’ and ‘Great Guitars 2’ in 1995
  • ‘Au Courant’ in 1997