Steel Guitar News

Hello fellow players,

I�m going to start off the newsletter this week with an email that I received from a reader and it covers several newsletters that I have gotten recently about the history of the E9th tuning.  At the end of you reading this letter, I will explain how it happened to be.

HI BOBBE, I REALLY ENJOY YOUR NEWSLETTERS. I REALLY LIKE YOUR INSIGHT OF PEDAL STEEL. DO YOU THINK YOU COULD SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE,  HOW THE E9TH TUNING CAME ABOUT, ALSO THE CHROMATICS. CAN YOU NAME THE PLAYERS THAT HELP MAKE THE E9TH TUNING, I HEARD THAT LLOYD GREEN DROP THE E'S FIRST, AND WELDON MYRICK RAISED THEM. DID BUDDY EMMONS ADD THE CHROMATICS, F# AND Eb WHICH HE FIRST PUT THEM ON THE BOTTOM BUT EVENTUALLY MOVE THEM TO THE TOP? THIS IS DRIVING ME CRAZY, I SURE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW, I THINK OTHER STEEL PLAYERS WOULD ENJOY YOUR SHARING THIS INFORMATION .
MANY THANKS
BOB GONDESEN

This will be my reply to all of you that have asked me this question.  Back in 1950 there were only three tunings that the majority of players were using.  Of course, there were no pedals in this era so many players used triple neck steel guitars.  The standard tunings were E major, A major and C6th.

Most teaching books showed these tunings or derivatives of these tunings.  When a new student wanted to learn to play guitar, he had a choice of what tuning he wanted to be taught on.  Most players chose E first, A second and C6th third.  By putting a small mechanical device on the guitar, the E tuning could be changed to A tuning with this device that usually had a pedal hooked to it.  This made it possible to cut the guitar size down to double neck size.

Suddenly we had an E neck where you could step on a pedal and it would turn it into an A tuning.  Originally these tunings were meant to be played just one at a time and not to hear the actual strings from one tuning into the other.  Then along comes Mr. Bud Isaacs.  Bud had been playing with this pedal on his Bigsby steel guitar and incorporating it into a style where he could play along in E and then step on the pedal and suddenly be in the A tuning, let off the pedal and he would be back in E.

He played this where it was very obvious hearing the strings go from one tuning to the other.  He then recorded with the great Webb Pierce in Nashville and incorporated this style of changing basic tunings into a song called �Slowly� by Webb Pierce.  This record turned out to be a smash hit mostly because of Bud Isaacs trick on the steel guitar.

Webb tried to buy the steel guitar from Bud when Bud wanted to go back to California.  Webb wanted the guitar for his steel player Sonny Burnett and ended up having to buy another Bigsby for Sonny from a fellow Grand Ole Opry steel guitarist named Johnny Siebert.  Webb was very well aware of what this style of guitar meant to his career. Webb promptly shipped the steel back to Paul Bigsby to have a couple of pedals installed on it as it had none on it when he bought it from Johnny.

When Webb and Sonny got the guitar back from Mr. Bigsby it had what was later to become referred to as the Jimmy Day setup on it.  In other words, the pedals were installed backwards.  Sonny didn�t like this and ended up taking the guitar to Shot Jackson and had Shot do away with the split pedals to one solid pedal that pulled both strings together, or in other words, E to A chord with one pedal.

Sonny went on to record many songs with Webb with this setup.  Songs like �In The Jailhouse Now�  �Wondering, Wondering�  �There Stands The Glass� and �More and More�.  This little Bigsby guitar and its player Sonny Burnett did more to promote the E9th tuning than anything did in the beginning.

This style was duplicated by Walter Haines on Jimmy Dickens song �We Could�.  Then Buddy Emmons played this style on his Bigsby on many recording sessions that went to number one.  It wasn�t long until every steel guitarist everywhere was chopping holes in their own steel guitars and putting an E to A pedal on them to duplicate what the big boys were doing on their Bigsbys.

The tuning that was normally used was a plain E major tuning.  When Walter Haines added a high F# where the fourth string goes to play that beautiful 9th slide on the intro of �We Could�, everybody in the world had to have that octave high F# string on their tuning in the fourth position.

Unfortunately most players didn�t like that string in the middle of their E tuning when they were just playing regular songs.  So pretty soon, several of us in this era at this time put our F# chromatic string with an Eb string in the 9th and 10th position if we had a 10 string guitar.  This method of using the chromatics turned out to be the standard way of doing things through the mid-sixties.  This was a little inconvenient to reach down with your thumb to play your chromatics, but many players adapted to it well.

Then suddenly, Buddy started touring around the United States with several of the big road hillbillies like Ernest Tubb, Ray Price and others and had put his chromatics instead of in the 9 and 10 position, he put them where 1 and 2 goes and moved the rest of the strings down 2 notches, including the bass strings.  Now we had the chromatics in the 1st and 2nd string position which is what we have today.

And that is the beginning of the E9th chromatic tuning.  It has pretty well stayed the same since 1963 with different pedals being hooked to the chromatic strings over the years.  Buddy ended up lowering the 2nd string known as the Eb chromatic a half a tone, then a full tone.  I think I myself was the first one to raise the first string a whole tone.  In other words, F# to G.

I remember when I first came to Nashville to stay and not just work the road.  Lloyd Green invited me to a session he was doing with Charley Pride.  He only had 3 knee levers on his Sho-Bud at that time.  I asked him where he lowered his E�s.  He replied, �I don�t lower them.  I just raise them.�  

This totally confused me as I could not understand why he would raise them and not lower them.  However he proceeded to show me some things before the session started and convinced me he knew what he was doing.  This cemented our friendship.  He�s been a dear friend ever since.  He was also the first guy that I know of to raise his E strings.  I think Weldon Myrick also started doing this about the same time.

By the way, the Webb Pierce Bigsby that we were talking about earlier ended up going to Lloyd Green and he did several albums for Roy Drusky and Lynn Anderson and many instrumental cuts for himself on Monument Records.  I think one of them was named �Big Steel�.  This is a magnificent little guitar today and has undergone somewhat of a total restoration.  

Boy, if this guitar could talk, you�d have to listen to it forever as much as it would have to say.  We may even say that this is the guitar that the original E9th grew up on and Jimmy Day borrowed to record many of his hits. 

NEW PRODUCT RELEASE:  DigiTech/Lexicon RV-7 Reverb.  A new product from DigiTech/Lexicon in a stomp box form is just in and upon doing extensive testing, we�re finding that it is about the finest sounding reverb unit for steel guitar we have ever sold.  We love the Boss product and love the 5 year warranty and the dependability of the product, but this new Lexicon is studio quality with an extremely high sample rate without having an extremely high price.  

Of course, our sale price of $144.49 will be to help out our friends on this mailing list and players that want the best quality products that are made.  The quality of sound coming out of this beautiful reverb unit is second to none.  Here�s an effect that will definitely make everyone sound better and as good as anything ever possibly could.  It�s called the DigiTech/Lexicon RV-7.

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,
Bobbe
www.steelguitar.net
sales@steelguitar.net
www.youtube.com/bobbeseymour
www.myspace.com/bobbeseymour

Steel Guitar Nashville
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Hendersonville, TN. 37075
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