Hy White – the 5th Beatle (not quite)

Hy White is another of those great players from the late 30s through 50s who should be much better known to today’s jazz aficionados. He played with the Woody Herman Orchestra (with whom he recorded River Bed Blues – see below), recorded with Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster, pop singers Doris Day, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and others, and became the house guitarist on the Ed Sullivan Show for fifteen years. That’s quite a CV!

I came across an edition of his solos, called “Guitar Digest by Hy White” which you can download HERE. The contents include a transcription of his great River Bed Blues with the Woody Herman Orchestra, which you can hear in this video:


Another item from the Guitar Digest is his Twilight Reverie, which Hy describes as “an example of a melodic chord study…must be played with feeling and at a slow tempo”.

While working on the Ed Sullivan Show, Hy was asked to fill out The Beatles’ guitar parts, which weren’t recorded too well. He laughs about becoming for a short time, the Fifth Beatle. He tells the story in this enjoyable video:



11 thoughts on “Hy White – the 5th Beatle (not quite)”

  1. Dear Rob,

    Very many thanks for this message.

    I’ve been feeling a bit down most of the week with an annoying cold. A few days ago I said to myself, “Now what I need to cheer me up is a new video from Rob”, and here we are.

    Very pleased to see you playing an archtop again. I’d thought you’d had to give up that sort of music with the onset of arthritis in your hand but I guess that lovely looking new guitar is probably easier to play than the Elferink guitar.

    And I am encouraged to see that we have one playing technique in common: the slight shaking of the guitar to help sustain notes, usually a chord. I’d thought this was just one of my idiosyncrasies which ‘proper’ guitarists wouldn’t use.

    The book by Hy White is a real bonus. I think I’d heard of him but certainly I didn’t know of the book nor of his association with the Beatles guitar parts (“carts” a mistyping I guess). The music in this book looks difficult for me but having it as a pdf means I can print it out, write on it, enlarge it, and anything else that might help me. (I’ve never liked writing in books and always wince when I borrow a book from the University Library and discover someone has disfigured it with underlinings, comments, etc.)

    Anyway, have a good week and all the best,




    1. Cheers, Michael, and for spotting the typo. The guitar is excellent, very happy with it. And it was nice to discover old Hy White, but this piece is the only one in the book that interests me. Get to work!


  2. Wow, thanks, Rob – I had never even heard of Hy White – his tone on River Bed Blues is gorgeous! I’ll be looking at the “Digest” – thanks for the link!

    Still enjoying your recent Romantic guitar album – beautiful playing!

    All the best! Max

    Max Smith Guitarist • Composer • Educator max@maxsmithguitar.com http://www.maxsmithguitar.com/

    “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” — Blaise Pascal



  3. Thanks for that – I forgot that my reply would be posted here and have only just seen it with your response. TI have been favourite strings of mine in the past but now are somewhat expensive for me, and as I recall they’re GB cost two arms and a leg but they certainly sound worth it in your hands. What sort of plectrum do you use which produces such a smooth tone?


      1. Many thanks. Found I’ve got one of those plectra (correct plural usage by you noted), just tried it for ten minutes, it may be a good thing.

        Mention of Blaise Pascal by Max convinces me this is the most erudite guitar site on the web. BP has been an acquaintance of mine for over forty years, partly no doubt because my birth date and the date of his great vision of ‘Fire’ coincide.


  4. Very nice-I really appreciate you making these old folios available!. I happened to be cleaning out some old papers yesterday and ran across an original by Howard Morgen from an old Guitar Player article-“Blues for Hy”-dedicated to …Hy White!


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