OK, now that DJ Fontana and Bill Black have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we fans are happy that all of Elvis’ bandmates of the 50s are honored in the “Sidemen” category. We’ve talked about that here, and I’ve also asserted that the rest of the 70s TCB guys should join them next year. Surely there aren’t any more Elvis-related musicians worthy of Rock Hall cheerleading. Actually, there is one.
The Hall of Fame seems to favor Elvis’ guitarists. They honored Scotty Moore and James Burton, but what about the main guy in the time between them – Hank Garland. He recorded and performed with Elvis from 1957 until 1961. The connection between Elvis and Hank Garland would have continued even longer, but Garland had a car crash in 1961 that put him in a coma for months. Over the years he gained some mobility, but his career was over.
And that career was going quite well up until then. Garland recorded and performed with the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams and Marty Robbins. Notice anything interesting about that group of singers? They are all in one or more Halls of Fame. Counting Elvis, Hank Garland played with seven Hall of Fame singers. What more can a “Sideman” do?
Hank Garland with Elvis at the USS Arizona concert in 1961
Here are praises for Hank Garland written elsewhere on the web. ElvisNews.Com has called him, “the talk of Nashville, known for musical riffs that could take a record from humdrum to dazzling.” Musician Wolf Marshall said, “He is heralded as the quintessential Nashville studio guitarist.” That sounds like a Hall of Fame “Sideman” resume by itself, doesn’t it? Plus Hank Garland had many accomplishments with Elvis.
So, what music did he make with Elvis? Garland replaced Scotty in the recording studio on June 10, 1958 at RCA Studio B in Nashville. The pressure was on to get some hits in the can before Elvis went in the Army. Elvis recorded just five songs but got huge mileage out of them: Top 10 hits “I Got Stung,” “A Big Hunk of Love” (#1), “I Need Your Love Tonight,” and “A Fool Such As I” (#2). My fellow Elvis blogger Alan Hanson at www.elvis-history-blog.com says, “Garland really shines in the 1958 session, especially in “A Fool Such As I” and “I Need Your Love Tonight.” On the latter song, his guitar part is so strong that it overpowers Elvis’ vocal.”
When Elvis finished his Army service and returned from Germany in 1960, there was a similar urgent need for songs to release as singles. Scotty Moore was back in the fold as guitarist for the March 20, 1960 session, but Hank Garland partnered up with him on electric bass. They did six songs, including three hits: “A Mess of the Blues,” “Fame and Fortune” and “Stuck on You” (#1).
Two weeks later everybody was back in Studio B, this time with Scotty and Hank sharing guitar duties. Elvis recorded a dozen songs, including #1 hits “It’s Now or Never” and “Are you Lonesome Tonight?”
With that output behind him, Elvis took a recording breather in the middle of 1960. He finally returned to the studio in October – to record a spiritual album. Again, Scotty and Hank shared the guitar work on His Hand in Mine.
In March 1961, before starting the filming of Blue Hawaii, Elvis gave a benefit performance in Honolulu to raise money for the USS Arizona Memorial Fund (The Arizona sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor). Elvis stayed with the double guitar team of Scotty Moore and Hank Garland. This turned out to be Elvis’ last live performance for eight years.
And then the car accident ended it all for Hank Garland. He had a short career, but it was full of outstanding “Sideman” accomplishments. He recorded a dozen hits with Elvis, including four #1s. His songs with Elvis filled up three albums. In addition, he played with all those other Hall of Fame singers.
Come on, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Put Hank Garland in.
Hank Garland shortly before he died in 2004
© 2009 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net