Born outside of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Garland began playing guitar at age six, scoring his first hit, the instrumental "Sugarfoot Rag," at nineteen. A member of a select group of Nashville session musicians known as the "A-team," he also recorded a jazz album, Jazz Winds From a New Direction, and jammed with Charlie Parker and pianist George Shearing.
In 1961 a car accident left Garland in a coma for months. The guitarist sustained significant brain damage and suffered a loss in coordination that prevented him from returning to top form.
Fellow A-team guitarist Harold Bradley once said of Garland, "We haven't had another one come down the pike who plays the lines that he played. We've got some guys who play fast, but ...they don't have the feeling, the soul."