Byrd’s brothers play tribute concert

Published 9:56 pm Saturday, September 27, 2008

Most Suffolkians, and indeed most jazz aficionados worldwide, remember Charlie Byrd.

The famous jazz and classical guitarist, who died in 1999, was a native of Chuckatuck. His career included more than 100 albums, and he toured the world playing for the U.S. military after his own service in World War II.

The stage at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts is named after him, but that’s not tribute enough for those who knew him so well. On Oct. 5, Charlie’s brother, Joe Byrd, and others will play a special tribute to Charlie at the SCCA, with proceeds going to the Possum Hollow Ruritan Club for local college scholarships and other community projects.


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“He was just such a wonderful breath of fresh air,” said Joe Byrd of his brother during a phone interview from his home in Annapolis, Md.

Joining Byrd on the stage will be Steve Abshire on guitar and Chuck Redd on vibes. Abshire is a former member of the Navy Commodores, the premier Navy jazz band. Redd played drums with Charlie Byrd for 19 years, and is the current artist in residence at a Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.

Also in attendance will be Charlie and Joe’s other brother, Jack Byrd, and Jim Newsom, whose uncle Tommy Newsom was a longtime “Tonight Show” musician and worked with Charlie Byrd on a number of albums.

Joe Byrd said it feels “absolutely wonderful” to be coming home again.

“There’s lots of people around there that I grew up with,” he said. “We’ll be playing in the main hall, and it’s a fantastic place to play.”

Byrd said attendees at next week’s show will be treated to standard Byrd fare, and will be helping a great cause – the Ruritan Club scholarships and other charities – when they come.

Unfortunately, this will be Byrd’s last show in Suffolk, he said.

“I’ve done it for a long, long time,” said the 75-year-old musician. “That bass gets heavier every year. It’s a monster to drag that thing around.

“Just enough already.”

Joe’s wife, Elana, said even though there will be no more Suffolk concerts, they will continue to sponsor concerts and jazz programs.

“Charlie and Joe have played this Possum Hollow Ruritan Club benefit concert for probably 15 or 20 years,” she said. “Joe has visited over 125 countries, played at the White House for three different presidents, and for kings and queens and ambassadors all over the place.

“Tell everybody they gotta come this time, because there won’t be a next time.”

Tickets to the 3 p.m. performance are $25. A special wine and cheese reception for SCCA members to meet the band will follow the concert.

To obtain tickets, call 923-2900 or visit