Barry "Byrd" Burton
©2008 By Bronson Herrmuth
On March 10, 2008 the Nashville music community lost one of our finest with the passing of Barry "Byrd" Burton. I had talked with Byrd a couple of months ago at a session and he had agreed to sit with me in the studio for an interview, but we never got it done. I deeply regret that. For this issue our publisher agreed to allow me a departure from my column's question/answer format so I could pay tribute to Byrd and I do Appreciate that as do I know all of Byrds' family, friends and many long time fans.
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Byrd Burton came from Rogersville, Tennessee and he's most commonly known as the guitar player and producer of the very successful 1970's country rock band, The Amazing Rhythm Aces. His career took off when legendary producer Sam Phillips of Sun Records hand picked him to be a session player at Sun Studios in Memphis where legends like Elvis and Johnny Cash got their start. He was engineering, producing, and playing guitar on The Amazing Rhythm Aces album Stacked Deck then they insisted he join the group. He was with them for three more albums, leaving in 1978 to take his place as a much-in-demand session player and producer in Nashville.
Byrd went on to tour with numerous other artists, including Dan Fogelberg, Suzy Bogguss, Nanci Griffith, Dolly Parton, and Brooks and Dunn. His guitar playing can be heard on studio recordings by Don Williams, The Oak Ridge Boys, Emmylou Harris, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, John Conlee, TG Shepard, Bobby Braddock, Pinkard and Bowden, Bobby Bare, and many more. In 2002 he released a solo instrumental country effort, titled Byrd Braynz (ADF Records). A multi-instrumentalist, Byrd played: Acoustic Guitar, Dobro, Mandolin, Slide Guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Electric Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, Electric Sitar, on this release.
He is a two-time Grammy Nominee, winning one for Country Performance by a Group for the song, "The End Is Not In Sight (The Cowboy Tune)" from the album Too Stuffed To Jump by The Amazing Rhythm Aces. He also played on and produced the classic "Third Rate Romance".
Byrd won the prestigious Nashville Superpicker Award for playing on Don Williams "Tulsa Time" and was winner of four ASCAP Awards. He performed on Nashville Now, On Stage, Saturday Night Live, Pat Sajak Show, Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers Special, Crook & Chase, Austin City Limits, Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, Midnight Special and the Grand Ole Opry. Movie soundtracks he played on include: Hooper, Urban Cowboy, and the TV Mini-series - The Wild West which aired in 1993.
This is what some of Byrd's friends and fellow musicians had to say about him:
"It was such a pleasure to work with him on every session we did," said Mike Schrimpf, studio owner and keyboard player. "He was one of my all time musical heroes. When he passed away, it wasn't just me who lost their best friend. The music world lost one of the best friends it ever had." "Bryd taught me so much about being a session musician, from his playing to his humor," said drummer Mark Beckett. "I am proud of our 12 year relationship and I miss him very much." Marty Martel of MSP Inc. had this to say, "I was fortunate to be able to look around the studio on a couple of occasions when I was recording, and sitting across the room was Bryd Burton. What an honor, he was the master."
Besides music Byrd's passion was flying. He loved to fly and along with the music community in attendance at his funeral were fellow pilots, many of them also musicians who had just held a benefit in his honor. All of them gathered together to pay their respects to Byrd. Music was performed by the Whites and there was a photo displayed taken of Byrd flying his plane taken by another plane flying along side his. A picture of Byrd in flight. Rest in peace Byrd, you will be missed but never forgotten.
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