Jimmy Capps, a member of the Grand Ole Opry Band since 1967, discusses his experiences as a session player and demonstrates his technique during this Museum program, recorded on June 16, 2012, as part of the Nashville Cats series. Capps was known as “the master of smoothness” for the way he made intricate guitar figures appear effortless.
A native of Benson, North Carolina, Capps was encouraged by a fiddle-playing uncle. Getting his first guitar at age twelve, Capps “got good quick,” as Museum historian and host Bill Lloyd says. Within a year, the young guitarist performed regularly on a local radio station, sponsored by a store owner for whom he delivered groceries between on-air appearances. Capps got his big break, professionally, when the Louvin Brothers hired him in 1958 and brought him to Nashville.
During the program, Capps talks about recording with one of his guitar heroes, Hank Garland, on a session with the Louvins. He also explains how he wound up on playing on Freddie Hart’s “Easy Loving” when fellow guitarist Ray Edenton wanted to go fishing and suggested Capps for the gig instead. Once “Easy Loving” hit in 1971, Capps regularly got calls for studio sessions, recording hits in the 1970s with John Denver, Ronnie Milsap, Charlie Rich, Billie Jo Spears, Mel Street, Tammy Wynette, and others. As Lloyd points out, many of Capps’s recordings utilize his acoustic guitar as the driving element in the arrangement on a track.
Throughout the interview, Capps displays a soft-spoken demeanor, buoyed by a wry humor. His fluid, melodic guitar style is highlighted through videos and recordings, illustrating why he has been held in such high esteem for more than fifty years. He graces a long list of country classics including “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (George Jones), “The Gambler” (Kenny Rogers), and “Here in the Real World” (Alan Jackson). In addition, Capps has played on countless TV shows, including “The Wilburn Brothers Show,” “The Statler Brothers Show,” and RFD-TV’s “Larry’s Country Diner.”
Capps also reminisces about working with Ferlin Husky, George Jones, and Charley Pride, among many other legends. As for his enduring track record as a studio musician, an Opry staff player, and a frequent contributor on TV programs, Capps says, “I like to think it’s because I’m a good team player, instead of being a guy who insisted on doing it his way. I wanted to be part of the team.”
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