Shorty Byrd passes

If you camped at central North Carolina bluegrass festivals such as Big Lick Festival in April, Doyle Lawson’s on Mother’s Day weekend, Lil’ John’s on Labor Day weekend, or Willow Oak in June, you might have crossed paths with Shorty Byrd. Like old Saint Nick, he was a small man that was lively and quick. He loved to sing and play bluegrass until all hours in the campsites. His whole body and demeanor reflected it. A wide smile covered his face, big laughs rumbled up from deep within his chest, and if he wasn’t playing a bass, he was patting his belly in time to the music. He was the life of the party wherever he went. If he was singing, you could guarantee Why Don’t You Tell Me So and Dim Lights, Thick Smoke would be included in the song list.

Monday morning, January 23, 2022, 83-year-old Colvin M. Byrd, known lovingly as “Shorty,” passed away following an arduous battle with esophageal cancer. Word of his death spread quickly throughout the bluegrass community.

Sideline’s Steve Dilling stated, “Shorty was a dear friend of mine. He loved his music and his friends. I’m sure going to miss him.”

Young, up and coming artist, Caroline Owens, enjoyed campsite jams with Byrd. “While I rejoice in the fact that he is no longer suffering, my heart is saddened to know that I have lost a friend, the kind of friend that everyone found in Shorty. He lived by the motto, ‘Be good to people and they’ll be good to you.’ And he stood true to that. And while I am reminded that bluegrass festivals and late-night jams will never be the same without him, I have peace in knowing that Heaven’s choir is much sweeter today because of the life and legacy of my friend, Shorty Byrd.”

Banjoist, Trent Callicutt, chimed in. “It was always a treat for me to be in a jam with Shorty Byrd! He was a character, always joking and cutting up! But, most importantly, he was my friend. I’ll miss hearing his big laugh around. I sure loved the man! I’ve known him for years.”

Fellow North Carolina bass man, John Fogleman, formerly with Mark Templeton Band, stressed, “He took care of me like my dad (the late dobro player, Wade Fogleman) asked him. He took me to festivals and events, and we made great memories.”

Byrd played bass in the Rocky Bottom Boys with the Welch brothers.

Band mate, Ted Welch, shared, “I’ll sure miss Shorty Byrd. He always treated my family like part of his family. He introduced my brother, Kenny, and me to so many awesome pickers and we never missed an opportunity to sing together. Truly one of the best, he told us to ‘Love people and they’ll love you back,’ and everyone loved Shorty. A bluegrass legend, love you, Shorty. Prayers for his family!”

Another North Carolina bassist and longtime close friend, Travis Brady, recalled, “My dad (the late fiddler, Jimmie Lee Brady) and Shorty were acquainted years ago. They used to work together at the state department and played music with Richard McNeill, Wayne Miller, and a lot of others. I got to know Shorty when I was real young, then later in life we bought campers and stayed at music festivals and had our music jams at night. Shorty and I were close friends at the end. Just glad I got to know him. We always had a good time.”

Visitation will be from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on Friday, January 28, 2022 with the funeral to follow at Loflin Funeral Home Chapel in Ramseur, NC. Burial will follow at Union Grove Christian Church near Asheboro.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.