Steel Guitar News

Hello fellow players,

It�s always interesting to hear what my readers are thinking.  I liked this one so much, I thought I�d just pass the whole thing on.  Here goes � 

Hi Bobbe:
This is a spot-on article you have penned! Yep! There's hope for steel even yet. I do agree. 
Last week, at one of the jams I was at, I took my SD-10 Ultra to sit-in. The best I could ever hope for from this bunch as being "Country" music was Janis Joplin's version of "Bobby McGee" or Neil Young. 
Ray Price or Merle were just NOT on the menu, not will they ever likely be. Keith Urban and other "country" singers ( You know, those country-singers for country fans who don't really LIKE country music) sometimes are the choices of tunes selected by one or more of the guests.  It might get played, but not first choice when everyone speaks fluent blues and say, Bob Seeger etc.  A rack of electric guitar floor-pedals consume sometimes more floor-space than your average D-10 with a Nashville 112 lurking against the wall.
But for the most part, I've found locally, at most of the clubs that host jams, it's usually a Strat and Les Paul thrasher paradise. Therefore, I ended up playing a heavily distorted crash-and-burn version of "Crazy Arms" that someone sorta knew, and the rest of the night was spent shredding to the sweet melodic tones of Ozzy Ozborne's "Crazy Train"; Stevie Ray Vaughan; Eric Clapton; and Cheryl Crow.  "Different!", to say the least. 
The jammers and crowd thought it was awesome.  Fun for me, but still wanting, compared to the real stuff we steelers tend to embrace. 
"Merle Haggard?  Who's he?  Nawww, Sorry man.  Don't know 'im!  Who's Hank Williams?" And so it goes! ..."Hey, The Stones are pretty country,.." (Actually, Ron Wood IS a steeler.  And I do like The Stones!) 
Swing and jazz, I've found at these jams, has a glimmer of hope in being appreciated and even played the odd time. But NOT country! Gawd NO!! (Where's that vampire-cross?).  Johnny Cash, however, seems very popular these days among the younger set. Is it because his music is really appreciated or is it because he's become a "cool" trend?  Who knows?  At least it's still a good sign.  And you don't hear steel in his material.  It's a foreign instrument, full of daunting mystery to onlookers from the rock ilk.  A gazillion Tellys; Strats; PRS; and Les Pauls will move out the door of the local music retailer before someone even comes in to ask about strings for a PSG or a Stringmaster. I ordered a set of steel E9/C6 strings, last year, that six weeks later were "still on the truck" and would be in later, hopefully that week. I ended up going to where they sell PSGs to get my stock.
BTW: PSGs and lap-steels are pronounced, "Slide lap-top steel-string guitar", and "slide-pedal" by this Led Zeppelin aficionado crew.  I was sorta clueless on the material chosen at this jam, but since I had scales on my side, and a trowel of raw distortion to slap on at will, it all darned-well worked!  Wow!  That was exhilarating!  Now I'm being hailed as some kind of "slide guru" by the local guitar-slingers. 
Sadly, maybe that's the way things are going. Nobody has ever heard of Jimmy Day; Buddy Emmons; Lloyd Green etc.  But they all are well-acquainted with Robert Randolph (IMHO, he's great!); Steve Howe; and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd..)... Even my surgeon (BTW: I now have cancer,..) digs those steelers. To me, they don't seem to play melodies as much as sounds. I guess it's all art and all of it is allowed.  But maybe I'm spoiled by folks like yourself and David Hartley; Fred Justice; etc. and the list goes on and on and on and on.  I'm kinda partial to hearing the actual tune rather than just aimless glissandos and swells.
Anyway, maybe that's the new direction for steel.  Especially LSG, and reso. (Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes certainly cut a few paths in that department). Still, most jammers are unfamiliar with Blue Highway or Union Station. Minds need to open.  And as unfamiliar the popular forms of rock and  contemporary blues are to me, I try to take it all in stride with the intent of actually learning something! Can't hurt! The discipline is good too! Legions are a slam-dunk for a country-jammin' steel-player. But there are restrictions: It occurs rarely or only at dances; the crowds, although appreciative are ageing and don't come out as much. Spot-checks and smoking-laws tend to curb that enthusiasm for the older set also, especially if there's a hockey-game or World's Series the same night. BTW: I support both spot-check DWI measures and anti-smoking rules fully. But there's substance to saying that these have altered the clubbing habits of most adult jamming players. Times have indeed
 changed. It's our job to readily try to change with them.  If we choose not to, it won't bode well for the future of our conspicuousness of our type of music and playing.
It's still a rock and roll world out there! And there's the writing on our own wall: Seems New country doesn't use steel as much as trad-country does/did, because it appeals mostly to those who don't really take to pure country. It's sorta heavy-metal under a hat! IMHO, it's not defined. 
But maybe the hard-core rockers are finally listening. "Rock and roll will never die!" and perhaps, with their acceptance of our instrument, neither will steel guitar!

BTW: I love steelin' to Rolling Stones tunes! (lol)

I never forward emails I get unless I believe in them and I find them to be entertaining and educational.  I feel this one fills the bill.

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Your buddy,

Steel Guitar Nashville
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