Garland Nash's musical interest was well-formed
by age seven, when he decided that he wanted to be a musician. He couldn't
wait for his favorite music programs to come on the radio. His father
played banjo, and two of his sisters played guitar and sang locally
as a duo. One day, he picked up his sister's guitar, taught himself
to play, and never looked back. As a boy in Anderson, South Carolina,
he raised two hogs to get the money to buy his first steel guitar (an
Electromuse). Soon afterward, his talents were in demand locally.
Garland started his full-time music career in Lexington, NC, at age 15, at radio station WBUY, with the Tarheel Ramblers. The Ramblers played at high schools and other locations in the Lexington area. Then at age 16, he moved back to Anderson, SC, and joined the Silver Dew Boys. This group played at local venues, including the Criterion Theater, and hosted a daily noontime radio program on station WKLY in Hartwell, Georgia. The Silver Dew Boys also played shows in South Carolina, North Carolina, and North Georgia.
After leaving the Silver Dew Boys, he moved north and joined Curly King and the Tennessee Hilltoppers in Bristol, Virginia. The band hosted a radio show called "Farm and Fun Time," and played dates in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. After the Hilltoppers, he joined Cousin Zeke (Leonard), whose band was based at radio station WMEV in Marion, Virginia. This band also played shows in the Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia area.
While traveling with Cousin Zeke, Garland met Tex Ritter in Richmond, Virginia, and subsequently joined Ritter's band. He toured with Ritter, playing shows in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. On Dec. 16, 1950, he played the Sports Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, as his last show with Tex Ritter. He left Ritter's band to rejoin Cousin Zeke in Marion, Virginia.
Garland's next gig was in the Army, where he was a corporal in the signal corps during the Korean conflict. He was stationed in Japan, and during his tour of duty he played with Army and Air Force bands on the Far East Network. A band-mate during this time was his friend, well-known fiddle player and Nashville agent, Shorty Lavender. Their band was highly placed in an armed forces band competition across Japan, and they played regular shows at the Airmen's Club, Rockers Club, and the Officers' Club in Osaka.
After his enlistment period ended and he received his discharge from the Army, he returned to Virginia and rejoined Cousin Zeke's band. Southwest Virginia was beginning to feel like home. He met his future wife, Jean, while playing a local show in Marion. They were married in 1954, and set up housekeeping in Marion. When in Marion, Garland continued to play with Cousin Zeke's band at the Firemen's Jamboree on Saturday nights, and played with other local musicians from the Tri-Cities area.
Garland recalled a story recently about living in Virginia and having Shorty and Buddy Emmons stop by his house very early one morning (Garland said the two of them had been into some White Horse scotch). Shorty and Buddy were both playing for Ray Price at the time along with Willy Nelson on bass. Garland said Buddy left him a copy of a steel guitar record he had just cut …Four Wheel Drive. I am sure many of you have heard Garland play that song too !!!
In 1955, Garland went to Nashville, Tennessee, to join the Louvin Brothers at the Grand Ole Opry. While in Nashville, he also played show dates with Ernest Tubb, Bill Anderson, Jim Ed Brown, and Norma Jean. His band fronted shows for Charlie Walker; and through the sixties, he played show dates in the Bristol-Kingsport-Johnson City area, sharing the stage with such artists as Loretta Lynn, Sonny James, and Marty Robbins. He also played on Archie Campbell's television music program on Johnson City station WJHL, and with the Skelton Brothers on Bristol television station WCBY.
In 1969, Garland relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where he has played over the years with numerous bands and worked many recording sessions at local studios for country, gospel, and rock artists. In the seventies, he was a member of the touring gospel group Carroll Albury and the Sounds of Love, playing shows from Louisiana to West Virginia. During this time, he also played locally with Warren Roberts and with Hugh Jordan on Atlanta television. Most people are not aware that, during this time, Garland even recorded on a television commercial for Golden Flake Potato Chips! He was also a regular performer with bands at Atlanta country music clubs like the Covered Wagon and the Silver Saddle, at Lanierland, and at numerous private clubs across the Atlanta-Gainesville-Athens area. During the nineties, he played at the Georgia Mountain Fair, participated in the annual "Banker's Hour" show for United Community Banks, and played at steel guitar conventions throughout the southeast.
One of his favorite steel guitar performances was sharing the stage with longtime friend and fellow steel player Toby (“Pepe”) Peeler, who played with Bonnie Lou and Buster. He and “Pepe” spent many hours together trading steel guitar licks and working on their first pedal steel guitars. Many of you may have seen Garland and “Pepe” with their duo lap steel act either at Saluda, SC or other shows. ( I learned after the Saluda show that the two of them had just met up at the SC show by accident ….no rehearsal at all….Garland had two lap steels in his trunk… and they opened up with “Little Rock Get-Away” in twin…..they stole the show !!! )
While the majority of Garland's musical career has centered on the pedal steel guitar, he is known as a master of the lap steel guitar and its technique. In addition to his lap steel work in the early days of his career, he took up the lap steel again with Gainesville group The Frigidairz, who were pictured in a New York Times article on "what to see and where to go" in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games. He also recorded an original CD with The Frigidairz at Castle Studios in Nashville at about the same time.
Garland is also providing a strong steel guitar legacy by encouraging and teaching other musicians, both budding and seasoned, in the art of steel guitar playing. Garland has helped further the musical careers and aspirations of many, including "Cowboy" Eddie Long and more recently Jonathan Cullifer. He is respect by all the steel players and side-men that ever heard him play. The network of friends he has made through music stretches nationwide, and if any aspect of Garland's life is bigger than his love of music, it is his love of people.
Judy Nash Chandler - Daughter
(With comments added by Bill Nicholson)
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