I was sad to read about the death of Charlie Byrd [Metro, Dec. 3]. As a budding, 19-year-old guitar player, I spent a lot of nights in the early '50s listening to Charlie at Benny Bortnick's Village Inn on Rhode Island Avenue NE. Each week I budgeted my money so I could nurse my two or three beers there almost every night and learn from Charlie. One time he wrote out the chords for "Tenderly" on the back of a menu for me, and although my hands are large, I couldn't reach some of the chords.
A few years ago I met Mr. Byrd at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival and mentioned Benny's place. He said, "You 're talking real ancient history," but he was happy to talk about those days long gone.
Then I read the news about the closure of the last Hot Shoppes [front page, Dec. 3], four blocks down Rhode Island Avenue from Benny's Inn. We would congregate there after a night of Charlie Byrd's playing for Mighty Mos (named for the Modzelewski brothers who played football for the University of Maryland), hot fudge ice cream cake and root beer floats. The "Mo" remains the best double-meat patty hamburger I ever had.
To a native, Washington without Charlie Byrd and the Hot Shoppes just won't be the same.
It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of Charlie Byrd. I was 15 in 1962 and, like Charlie, I studied guitar at Sophocles Papas's Guitar Shop, which was at 1816 M St. NW. I studied with the great jazz guitar teacher Frank Mullen, whom Mr. Papas had hired.
Charlie would show up at the shop every Saturday for his lesson. Mr. Papas would leave his office door open during Charlie's lesson, and I and my fellow aspiring guitarists would sit outside the office and listen to classical guitar at its best. Charlie always would take time to chat with his admirers before and after his lesson.
On nights when we didn't have gigs of our own (we all played professionally in jazz, rock and dance bands), we would go to the Showboat Lounge to hear Charlie play with his original trio. Charlie would always come to our table and answer any questions we had about the music or technique.
When "Jazz Samba" was released in 1962, Charlie showed up at the guitar shop for his lesson and shared his arrangements for "One Note Samba" and "Desafinado" with Frank Mullen, who in turn shared the arrangements with his other students.
I feel privileged to have known Charlie Byrd and his music on a personal level.
He was way cool.