During the Great Depression he played the fiddle on street corners to help the family buy food, pushed to do so by his father. After being wounded in World War II, he began working seriously on his guitar playing, influenced heavily by Django Reinhardt. After the war, he returned to Moultrie then moved to Los Angeles county where he worked in Western films and played music in bars around L.A.'s Skid Row, where he met pioneering pedal steel guitarist Speedy West. West, who joined Cliffie Stone's popular Hometown Jamboree local radio and TV show, suggested Bryant be hired when the show's original guitarist departed. That gave Bryant access to Capitol Records since Stone was a Capitol artist and talent scout. In 1950 Tex Williams heard Bryant's dizzying jazz/country style and used him on his recording of "Wild Card".
In addition, Bryant and West played on the Tennessee Ernie Ford-Kay Starr hit "I'll Never Be Free", leading to both men being signed to Capitol as instrumentalists. Bryant and West became a team, able to play off each other and intuitively create brilliant instrumental synergy. That led to extensive work as session musicians in addition to making their own records. Their playing on the early 50s Tennessee Ernie boogie records remains as phenomenal as their own recordings for Capitol.
He was also one of the early country musician to use Leo Fender's new electric guitar, known today as the Telecaster. Bryant was a difficult musician to work with. By 1955 he left Hometown Jamboree (retaining his friendship with West) and after various clashes with his Capitol producer Ken Nelson, the label dropped him in 1956. He continued working in Los Angeles and in the early 1960s he and his small trio made an appearance in the Coleman Francis film The Skydivers. During the 1960s he shifted into music production. Waylon Jennings made a hit of his song "The Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line".
He can also be heard playing fiddle on the Monkees' "Sweet Young Thing". In the early 1970s Bryant ran a recording studio in Las Vegas, but finally relocated to Georgia before settling in Nashville in 1975, the same year he reunited with Speedy West for a reunion album produced by Nashville steel guitarist Pete Drake. Bryant played in Nashville bars and did some recording work but his personality did not mesh well with Nashville's highly political music and recording industry. In 1978, in declining health, Bryant learned that his heavy smoking had resulted in lung cancer.
He died in Moultrie in September 1980 at the age of 55. Bryant claimed that jazz guitarist Barney Kessel once said, "Jimmy Bryant is the fastest and the cleanest, and has more technique than any other." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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