Forgotten Heroes

Droves of guitarists can be traced back to Clarence White, from acoustic flatpicker Tony Rice to steel-inspired Tele players like Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart. Stuart now owns White’s famed Tele with the first StringBender, while Rice owns White’s Martin D-28 Herringbone.
Photo by Frank Chino

From his family bluegrass band to joining the Byrds and driving the invention of the StringBender, White’s hybrid style and repertoire has inspired generations of pickers since he came on the scene as an in-demand session player in the ’60s.

In the mid 1960s, the Byrds were one of a handful of bands that defined the era. Built around tight vocal harmonies and Roger McGuinn's jangly Rickenbacker 12-string, their chart-topping music incorporated elements of folk, early rock, country, and psych. But by 1968 the original lineup had disbanded and version two—featuring multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Gram Parsons—was also ending. By mid-year, McGuinn was the only remaining original member. But he had an ace up his sleeve: In July of that year, he reunited with founding bassist Chris Hillman and they recruited guitarist Clarence White into the band.

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