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Byrd, Charlie (actually, Charles L.)

jazz guitarist music style

Byrd, Charlie (actually, Charles L.), pop-jazz guitarist; b. Chuckatuck, Va., Sept. 16, 1925; d. Annapolis, Md., Dec. 1, 1999 (some sources say Nov. 30, 1999, or Dec. 2, 1999). Taught by his father, Byrd learned how to play the guitar at age nine arid eventually played in various school, college, and U.S. Army bands. While stationed in France, he met the famed jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, influencing him to pursue his interest in the music. After World War II, Byrd settled in N.Y., where he spent the 1950s building a strong reputation in both the jazz and classical fields; he also studied with André Segovia in 1954. Byrd played with Woody Herman in 1959, then embarked upon a U.S. government—sponsored tour of South America (1961), during which he discovered and adopted the bossa nova sound. This style and its accompanying dance became a fashionable new craze in both the U.S. and the U.K. in the early 1960s, largely due to the exposure Byrd gave the style on his return to the U.S. In 1962 he teamed with Stan Getz and released an album of bossa nova with an instrumental single called “Desafinado.” It reached the top 20 on both sides of the Atlantic, as did the duo’s album Jazz Samba . Charlie Byrd was never a chart star again, but he continued to be active in the music business. He ran his own club, the Byrd Cage, in Washington, D.C., which saw him remaining loyal to both wings of his musical self. In 1973 he formed the Great Guitars trio with Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis; they made five albums together and also toured extensively through the next decade. Byrd died of cancer in 1999. His brother, Joe, is a professional bassist who worked in Byrd’s group for many years, and his other brother, Jack, is an amateur guitarist.

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