Akira Otsuka’s photos from Jimmy Arnold Guitar sessions

Here is another gallery of archival photos taken by Akira Otsuka, this time during the recording sessions for Jimmy Arnold’s Guitar album for Rebel Records.

Arnold was a bluegrass musician of unusual virtuosity, who blazed like a supernova over a short-lived career. He played every bluegrass instrument quite well, particularly the banjo, and had an infectious sense of humor and taste for musical experimentation. Unfortunately, his life was complicated by problems with drugs and alcohol, which saw him jailed at one point and eventually cost him his life. Jimmy died at home on Christmas day in 1992.

But for about 20 years he was a sought after picker, and a headliner with his own band in the southeast. Born in Galax, VA, he was recruited by fiddler Joe Greene to come play with him in Nashville when Jimmy was just 18. He also worked at times with Keith Whitley’s band, and with Wes Golden in The Virginia Cut-Ups. His two instrumental albums in the 1970s, Strictly Arnold and Guitar, cemented his position as perhaps bluegrass music’s most gifted picker of his day, but Arnold became disenchanted with the music business when they saw limited commercial success.

From that point he ran a tattoo parlor which provided him a living, but also saw him fall further into his substance problems. Occasional returns to music occurred in the late ’80s, and Jimmy became a Christian and gave up alcohol in 1992, but not before his body had already suffered the ravages of years of abuse.

The Guitar album was recorded in three studio sessions at Track Recorders in Silver Spring, MD (10/8/74, 1/16/76, 6/17/76). It was released by Rebel Records in 1977.

Arnold played acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, banjo, and fiddle, supported by Cliff Waldron on guitar, Steve Wilson on reso-guitar, Johnny Castle and Tom Gray on bass, Mike Auldridge on reso-guitar and rhythm guitar, Warren Blair on rhythm guitar, Akira Otsuka on mandolin, Ricky Skaggs on fiddle and viola, and Obie O’Brien and Ronnie Freeland on drums. Freeland also engineered the sessions.