Charlie Byrd

Chuckatuck’s legendary jazz guitarist.

It’s not every day that a jazz artist scores a number one pop album, but guitarist Charlie Byrd (1925-1999) did it with Jazz Samba, his 1963 collaboration with saxophonist Stan Getz. The record kicked off a serious Brazilian bossa nova craze in America. Byrd learned guitar from his father in the family’s Chuckatuck country store. “The community there was a mixture of black and white,” he said. “It was where the singing and dancing happened, the only place that wasn’t segregated.” In 1954, he would go abroad in an attempt to become a classical guitarist. He never made it—he loved jazz too much—but he did adopt the nylon-stringed instrument as his own, and taught generations of would-be players the delicate (ferocious) art of finger-picking. 


This profile appeared as part of a larger feature in our February 2018 issue. Click here to read about the history of jazz in Virginia: meet the artists, read profiles and watch performance videos and interviews.

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