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Billy Byrd; Lead Guitarist for the Texas Troubadours

August 10, 2001

Billy Byrd, 81, who once played lead guitar for Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadours, died Tuesday in Nashville.

William Lewis Byrd was born in Nashville, and taught himself guitar by copying the records of Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. In the 1940s, Byrd backed the Oak Ridge Quartet (the predecessor of the Oak Ridge Boys), Little Jimmy Dickens, George Morgan and others.

In 1949, Byrd succeeded Tommy "Butterball" Paige as the lead guitarist with Tubb. On many of Tubb's hit records, Tubb would introduce Byrd's tight melodic solos by exclaiming, "Aw, Billy Byrd now," or "Play it pretty, Billy Byrd." Byrd played on scores of Tubb's hits, including "Jealous Loving Heart," "Two Glasses Joe" and "Answer the Phone."

Byrd also drove Tubb's bus during his first tenure with the Texas Troubadours, which lasted a decade. He briefly returned to the band twice in the late '60s and early '70s.

Byrd released three solo instrumental albums and, during a stint in California, backed Tab Hunter and Tex Ritter. In 1950, Byrd and guitarist Hank Garland designed the popular Byrdland guitar for Gibson Guitars.

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