Walter Louis “Hank” Garland (11 November 1930 – 27 December 2004) was a studio musician who performed with Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Moon Mullican, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, and Patti Page.
Born in Cowpens, South Carolina, Garland began playing the guitar at the age of six. He appeared on local radio shows at 12 and was discovered at 14 at a South Carolina record store. He moved to Nashville at age 16, staying in Ma Upchurch’s boarding house, where he roomed with upright bassist Bob Moore and mandolin player & fiddler Dale Potter.
At age 18, Garland recorded his million-selling hit “Sugarfoot Rag”. Garland appeared on the Jubilee with Grady Martin’s band, and on Eddy Arnold’s network and syndicated television shows.
Garland is perhaps best known for his Nashville studio work with Elvis Presley from 1958 to 1961, which produced such rock hits as: “I Need Your Love Tonight”, “A Big Hunk O’ Love”, ” I’m Coming Home”. “I Got Stung”, “A Fool Such As I”, “Stuck on You”, “Little Sister”, “(Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame”, and “I Feel So Bad”.
However, he worked with many country music as well as rock ‘n roll stars of the late 1950s and early 1960s including: Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, The Everly Brothers, Boots Randolph, Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty, Moon Mullican.
1957-58 marked the height of the rockabilly era. Garland’s guitar drove such classic recordings as Benny Joy’s “Bundle of Love” and “I’m Gonna Move”, Jimmy Loyd’s “You’re Gone Baby” & “I’ve Got A Rocket In My Pocket”, Lefty Frizzell’s “You’re Humbuggin’ Me” Simon Crum’s “Stand Up, Sit Down, Shut Your Mouth”, and Johnny Strickland’s “She’s Mine”, plus seasonal staples “Jingle Bell Rock” with Bobby Helms, and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. He also backed major crossover artists as well. Don Gibson’s “Sweet Sweet Girl” & “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles”, Patsy Cline’s “Let the Teardrops Fall” Ronnie Hawkins’ “Jambalaya” and Faron Young’s “Alone with You” spotlighted Garland’s adept guitar work. Relatively obscure artists such as Jimmy Donley have reached cult status due in no small part to Garland’s guitar artistry. Donley’s 1960 record “My Baby’s Gone” showcases another of Hank’s superb riffs. In 1959-60 Garland’s guitar drove other rockabilly and crossover songs such as The Collins Kids’ “Lonesome Road”‘ Joe Melson’s “Oh Yeah” Melvin Endsley’s “Ain’t It Fine”, Huelyn Duvall’s “Three Months to Kill” and the Everly Brothers “Stick With Me Baby.”
He also played with jazz artists such as George Shearing and Charlie Parker in New York and went on to record Jazz Winds From a New Direction, showcasing his evolving talent, along with Gary Burton on vibraphone, Joe Benjamin on acoustic bass and Joe Morello on drums. It is believed that Garland was the first to explore the use of the power chord in popular music.