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Steel Guitar News May 3. 2012

Hello fellow players,

Here are some more questions and answers. I thought for awhile that I would shy away from answering questions, however many of you have said it has done you a lot of good in your playing and others of you say that there’s quite a parallel between what I would do in my early days and what you are doing and have gone through.

One of the first bands that I played with was a teenie-bop band. It was Gene Vincent and the band later became the Blue Caps. I see now that they have received recognition and permanent status in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

Now when I look back at those first years in Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia sometimes making long trips as far away a Suffolk, I realize now that I was playing so poorly that it could definitely be called rockabilly. Rockabilly was bad hillbilly music played even worse, however it turned into something that everybody loved when our lead singer Gene Vincent shook his leg and acted like Elvis did on his first trip to the area. All the girls went crazy.

I wasn’t really liking what I had to play, but all the groups that I played in were Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash sounding groups, but it was rapidly turning into Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps music. Yes I was ashamed of it and still am, however I realize now that there are people copying some of the licks I did on steel guitar and many are copying what our lead guitar player did.

I ended up leaving the band because of my father’s insistence on staying in school and studying so I could support myself later in life. Being a great musician, he had no belief that the skiffle band I was with would ever amount to anything.

If I had started my career in the middle of the United States I could have been right there with the originators of rock ‘n roll when they all started. The west coast rock ‘n roll version of this kind of music turned out to be much better in some ways and worse in others.

None of the guitar players I worked with could really play a true thumb style guitar so I worked on that until I could perfect it. Pretty soon I had most of the local guitar players banging on my door telling me how great I was. I started realizing after hearing Chet and Merle that Nashville may be a lot better place for me to launch my career.

Playing many different styles I thought would put me ahead of most steel players. It may have, however the main style all the producers and country singers wanted was that plain old hillbilly steel guitar that sounded a lot like bad dobro.

Another question. Bobbe, when you started doing sessions, did you mind producers changing your tone a lot to sound like different things?

I guess I did. If my steel didn’t sound like Jerry Byrd or Buddy Emmons, I could get pretty upset but I tried not to show it. I soon realized there was no way to make my guitar sound like a Bigsby or a Sho-Bud by just changing the settings on the board. Sometimes the producers would say these were the same settings they used with Buddy on such and such recording. I’d say, “Fine then, go ahead.”

It would come off sounding more like Cousin Jody with Brother Oswald and the boys.

Another question. Did the British Invasion and the rock ‘n rollers of the sixties affect what tone you wanted to use in your country music sessions?

The answer is absolutely not. Even when Buddy Emmons played on rock ‘n roll sessions or Duane Eddy sessions, he insisted that his tone be put on the master tape the same as he was putting it out of his amplifier. All I could do was sit back and say, “Yea.”

Another question. Being raised as a youngster in Virginia, did it affect your attitude toward rockabilly singers since you had sessions that were setting them aside as competitors to the artists you were recording with?

Absolutely, up to a point. People were calling me a rock ‘n roll hillbilly steel guitar player, so this is why I used the term rockabilly and keep telling people I was a rockabilly steel guitar player.

It definitely makes a difference where a person grows up and learns to play, however when I first heard Elvis Presley, Joe Edwards, later to be an Opry guitar player, Paul Yandell and Scotty Moore were all on the same show. Two of these players stood head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, these astounding players were Paul Yandell and Joe Edwards. I walked away without a lot of respect for Scotty and Carl Perkins.

Another question. What kind of amplifier did you use Bobbe? The early days after the Air Force, I had a Fender Pro and then I got a tube type Standel. Then it was the 46L6 Fender Twin tube amp. I used these up until the Peavey Session 400s which were remarkably superior to anything I had ever seen and heard before.

Another question. Having great success in your first years, did you realize what you were doing from a business standpoint? No. I was a total idiot.

Another question. Did you ever go back to play in western New York state where you were born? No I never did. There was no money there. I went back to Norfolk for a week and realized there was no money there either. I went to Dallas for awhile, loved the music but there was no money there either. The money was on the road and in the studios in Nashville.

Another question. What is your reaction and what do you feel inside when you hear a new younger steel player playing your licks and things you recorded many years earlier? I am greatly honored and appreciate the offhanded compliment but usually don’t say anything to them. I just shake their hand, pat them on the back, tell them how nice they sound and move on.

Check out our monthly specials at http://www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

Your buddy,

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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