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Steel Guitar News January 7. 2013

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter. Being in the position I’m in, I get to talk to a lot of newcomers to pedal steel guitar. I fortunately sell guitars to these people. While talking to them I ask how they came to get interested in steel and who they have listened to. To my surprise, a lot of them don’t know who to listen to.

One of my new customers in the last year came in to buy a set of strings and I asked him if he ever listened to any Sonny Garrish stuff. He replied, “Who’s that?”

We have a lot of new people to steel guitar, utility players, guitar players wanting to add steel guitar to their arsenal, which is great, however I hope that they would go back and listen to the country music that steel guitar dominated.

I realize some of our readers are older and some are younger, so I’m going to stick to what I’m familiar with. I’m familiar with Noel Boggs, Herb Remington and Leon McAuliffe for example, but they didn’t influence me as much as other players who were current when I started playing.

To me, not just because I started playing in the seventies, but looking back I think the seventies were one of the greatest decades for pedal steel. I feel like some of the young players and utility players need to go back and listen to some of that.

I know I’m going to miss some names, only because I can’t mention everybody in the space of a newsletter, but here are a few that come to mind that were dominant players in the seventies. Lloyd Green, Sonny Garrish, Hal Rugg, John Hughey and Weldon Myrick. That will be more than enough to get you a start.

If you study and listen to the way these records were recorded, you’ll find there’s more to steel guitar than what you hear in today’s music and by all means not taking anything away from today’s players. They are definitely capable of playing anything.

Music always evolves and every new crop of players builds on what the players that came before them did. This is why it’s important to go back and listen. I find there are a lot of players who aren’t listeners. They know their instrument but they don’t know songs.

When I was growing up in Oklahoma my grandfather was a huge Bob Wills fan. In fact, him and my grandmother used to go to Bob’s dances. When I got my first pedal steel, my grandpa would talk about Leon McAuliffe and at the time I didn’t see the real need to listen to that “old” music because I was too busy learning the current stuff.

As I progressed musically, I realized that there is so much to learn from the older stuff if you really sit and listen to it as a musician. There’s many nights I’ll sit on the bus with a fiddle player I work with and we’ll listen to Bob Wills until four in the morning. It’s truly amazing how the next day, you’ll play differently by listening to this.

So please be a listener and don’t diss the old stuff just because it’s not what’s happening now.

It seems to me like around early to mid seventies they started putting musician credits on album artwork. This makes it easy to find out who played steel and thus easier for you to learn from a player you find interesting.

If you’re a newcomer or someone just getting interested in steel guitar, I hope this newsletter gives you a direction to get deeper into the subject.

Don’t forget about the Little Walter Workshop on Sunday January 13th. You’ll learn more about amps than you thought there was to know.


Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday

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