GARY BRYANT (By Tony Wilkinson)
Born 11 May 1936, Spokane, Washington
Died 19 November 1999, Spokane, Washington
The death of country singer and songwriter Gary Bryant from the effects of a brain tumour was reported on 19 November 1999. Whilst never in the top league, he was held in high esteem by many of his colleagues, especially by Tillman Franks - his one time manager -who has been quoted as saying that "Gary was one of the best entertainers on the Louisiana Hayride, and he toured lots with Johnny Horton".
Born 11 May 1936 in Spokane, Washington State, he started out in the music business as the featured singer - at the age of 17 - with T Texas Tyler. He subsequently joined the Hayride in 1956 and soon thereafter had two releases on Decca Records followed by issues on the Starday and Mercury labels.
Whilst at the Hayride, he became friends with D J Fontana and also had the unenviable task of closing the evening's performances - following directly on from the final show at that venue by Elvis Presley. An experience that stayed with throughout his life.
Bryant was also a gifted composer had had tunes cut by Donnie Young (aka Johnny Paycheck), Ferlin Husky, Roger Miller. He nearly had the cut on the then latest Ricky Nelson single in 1958 with the tune "I Can't Dance" which he had co-composed with Merle Kilgore. The final decision on whether Ricky was to cut the song was down to Ozzie Nelson but the evening before the meeting, Bryant went out on the town with Faron Young and his manager and ended up selling the song to the pair that night - for a reputed $50.00. (Faron Young went onto record the title, one of Faron's few rock 'n' roll recordings). Nelson's management decided a couple of days later to proceed with the song as his then next single but of course it was now too late.
Gary recorded some rockabilly flavoured country for Jerry Dennon's Jerden Records in the mid sixties but tiring of the road, he became a full time broadcaster on both television and radio, ending up in his native Spokane region where he linked up with childhood friends such as Bobby Wayne and Don Weise. Upon retiring from this, he went back into live performances again and at the time of his death was cutting a new album on which he was striving to get the old sound of fast country and rockabilly.
An in depth interview between Gary and Ken Burke appears in the Winter 1999 issue of the American magazine "Blue Suede News" and covers many facets of his career in depth. Five children and two sisters survive Bryant.
Sadly there is no compilation of Gary's material available. A suggestion to Bear Family?
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