Collaborator with many jazz greats who took Lester Young's place in Count Basie's band in 1941. He was a bandleader on more than twenty albums, including Midnight at Minton's.
He played a variety of instruments as a young man but switched to tenor saxophone when he moved to Los Angeles, where he performed with many bands.
He spent time living and performing in his Oklahoma hometown, in Los Angeles, in New York City, in Paris, and in the Netherlands.
When he moved to the Netherlands, Byas married a Dutch woman with whom he stayed until his death.
He toured in Europe with many different artists, including Dizzy Gillespie.