Holt Farlow Farlow (June 7, 1921 – July 25, 1998), better known as Tal
Farlow, was a jazz guitar virtuoso. He was born in Greensboro, North
Carolina. Farlow is nearly as famous for his reluctance to play as for his
fast, bebop influenced work and the occasional use of percussive finger
tapping. When he was younger, he played a mandolin tuned to that of a
ukulele because his hands weren't big enough to play on his father's
guitar. When his hands were big enough, he noticed that he had two extra
strings to play, so he used his thumb on the 5th and 6th strings. By age
22, he was playing professionally, and in 1948 he was with Marjorie Hyams'
band. While with the Red Norvo Trio (which originally included Charles
Mingus) from 1949-1953, Farlow became famous in the jazz world.
After six months with Artie Shaw's Gramercy Five in 1953, Farlow put together his own group, which for a time included pianist Eddie Costa. Late in 1958, Farlow settled on the East Coast, became a sign painter, and only played locally. He only made one record as a leader during 1960-1975, but emerged a bit more often during 1976-1984, recording for Concord fairly regularly before largely disappearing again. Profiled in the definitive documentary "Talmage Farlow", the guitarist can be heard on his own records for Blue Note (1954), Verve, Prestige (1969) and Concord. He died of cancer at age 77.
Between 1962 and 1967, Gibson produced about 215 guitars bearing his name. The most distinguishing feature of the guitar is the scrolled cutaway. The Tal Farlow guitar was expensive for its day and did not sell well despite Farlow's endorsement.