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Joe Byrd papers

Identifier: PIMS-0145

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Scope and Contents

The Joe Byrd papers, approximately 1958-2011, contain professional documents and music manuscripts of jazz bassist Joe Byrd. Series 1, Professional, contains business files and other materials from Byrd's musical career, the bulk of which are from approximately 1995-2010 and were maintained by Joe's wife, Elana R. Byrd. These include files on musicians, concert venues, and record labels; correspondence; clippings and other publicity; photographs; travel documents from Byrd's international tours; and set lists for performances.

Series 2, Music manuscripts, contains musical scores used by Byrd or his musical collaborators. Most of these scores are lead sheets of jazz and popular songs. Series 3, Sound recordings, contains six CD recordings of Joe Byrd and other musicians.

Joe Byrd frequently performed in groups with his brother, guitarist Charlie Byrd. Many of the documents in series 1 relate to performances involving both Joe and Charlie, or to tribute concerts Joe played after Charlie's death in 1999. Some of the music manuscripts in series 2 may have been used or created by Charlie Byrd.


  • Creation: approximately 1958-2011


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for use at the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives of the Peabody Institute. Contact for more information.

Biographical / Historical

Joe Byrd (1933-2012) was a bassist known for his jazz performances with his older brother, guitarist Charlie Byrd. Born Gene Herbert Byrd in Chuckatuck, Virginia, Joe attended the Peabody Conservatory and earned a Bachelor of Music and Teacher's Certificate in double bass performance in 1962. The same year, Joe played rhythm guitar on Jazz Samba, an album by Charlie Byrd and saxophonist Stan Getz that is credited for popularizing Brazilian jazz in the United States. Joe and Charlie performed together for decades, including on several international goodwill tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department and in visits to the White House for Presidents Johnson, Ford, and Carter. Other musical collaborators of Joe Byrd's include saxophonist Coleman Hawkins, pianists Teddy Wilson and Mose Allison, singer Jimmy Witherspoon, and guitarist Herb Ellis.

Byrd toured widely but called Maryland home for much of his life. He and his wife, Elana Byrd, produced and promoted jazz series at venues in Annapolis and Washington, D.C.

After Charlie Byrd's death in 1999, Joe Byrd continued performing and recording with new ensembles, sometimes performing tribute concerts to his late brother. In 2014, the East Hall performance space at the Peabody Institute was renamed Joe Byrd Hall.

(Adapted from obituaries in the Washington Post and other outlets, and from "East Hall renamed to honor jazz legend Joe Byrd," Peabody Magazine, vol. 9, issue 1, fall 2014.)


8.70 Cubic Feet (15 boxes, 6 CDs, and 1 map case folder)

Language of Materials



Joe Byrd (1933-2012) was a bassist and Peabody Conservatory alumnus who regularly played in jazz ensembles with his older brother, guitarist Charlie Byrd. The Joe Byrd papers contain professional files, music manuscripts, and sound recordings from his career, especially the last decade.


In three series.
Series 1: Professional, approximately 1958-2011
Series 2: Music manuscripts, approximately 1960-2005
Series 3: Sound recordings, 2001-2006

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Elana Byrd in 2012.

Existence and Location of Copies

A portion of materials from the Charlie Byrd papers and Joe Byrd papers are available in the Charlie and Joe Byrd Digital Collection at

Related Materials

Additional materials on Joe Byrd can be found in the Charlie Byrd papers, PIMS.0139, also available at the Arthur Friedheim Library Archives.

Processing Information

Minimally processed by Matt Testa in 2024. The bulk of the materials in series 1 are in their original order and folders.

Some physical processing of programs and other portions of series 1 by archives staff, approximately 2014-2016.

Guide to the Joe Byrd papers
Matt Testa
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Peabody Archives Repository

Peabody Institute
1 E. Mount Vernon Place
Baltimore MD 21202 USA