Hello fellow players,
Well it seems like steel guitar is getting more popular everywhere you look. Buried down in many commercials and jingles on television and radio and right out front in many TV shows and I’m seeing many new young players come in to my store then show up a year or two later playing incredibly well. This looks like steel guitar is going through the roof in popularity. It’s hard to find somebody anymore that doesn’t know what a pedal guitar is.
And because of so many rock acts using steel, it’s losing its reputation as being that whiny thing on just country. My new jazz album has done very well in sales and I have just seen new resurgence from deejays playing my instrumentals in The Netherlands and Scandinavia.
So this begs to ask the question, why is attendance way down in a couple of the biggest steel guitar shows in the United States? Is it that people are sick and tired of hearing the same steel players on every show play the same songs on every show? Or is it the price of gasoline and transportation in general? I know of one manufacturer that had a display in Dallas this year that cost him thirteen hundred and ninety dollars for the booth to do his display and he received no orders for guitars even though he did have a lot of interest.
Remember, this money contributes to the overhead that all future customers will have to pay to make up the deficit. I doubt if you’ll see this great company at any shows in the immediate future. If any of you have gone to either of these major shows, please don’t be discouraged because the producers of these steel shows are doing their best to cover all the bases. They have great players, educational seminars and many products that can be helpful to all of you.
I hear complaints from many of the players that they can’t do many new songs they would like to do because the musicians that are hired to back them up are just plain not familiar with the material. This means possibly that they should bring complete number charts and the producer of the show should hire musicians that can read these charts.
Overall, I feel these shows are very helpful to the industry. So don’t forget these major shows when you make your plans in March and September. You’ve got a lot of people working very hard to provide you an opportunity to get face to face with great players, to learn and share techniques with each other, to make new friends and see old ones and so much more.
I would like to say right now very emphatically that I was not referring to Robert Randolph in my last newsletter when I was talking about show biz antics replacing musicianship. Robert Randolph is a much better player than what he does on his rock n roll style shows. Robert came in my store a few years ago and started playing a Lloyd Green Sho-Bud which was plugged in, in the tryout area of my store, and proceeded to play notes faster than I’d heard about anybody and I mean playing them extremely well.
He sounded like a quartet of machine guns all by himself, putting out notes that were as perfect as any great jazz piano player I have ever heard. I staggered over to the telephone and called Doug Jernigan. I told Doug on the phone to guess who the steel player was. Doug said, “Wow, it sounds like young Mr. Tommy White but faster.”
I said, “No, you’re wrong. Get over here quick. This guy’s only 16 years old and black.”
Doug laughed and said, “No way! I’ll be right over.”
Then I preceded to call Lloyd Green. Lloyd couldn’t believe what he heard over the phone and immediately jumped in his BMW and came straight over to the store. The three of them played and jammed until I closed late in the afternoon.
Now I’ll admit, when I see Robert doing the Late Show or David Letterman, I don’t hear any of these great things he played while in my store, but instead he sounds more like BB King on steroids, more soulful but laid back. So I’m thinking he is tailoring what he knows to the audience at hand, which I credit him for.
I’m not saying he’s the greatest musician, but he definitely is a great player when it comes to execution and the show biz part of it. If I had a soul gospel group to be connected with around the world, I would love to have Robert Randolph in it. He’s really a better player than he lets on in his late night television appearances.
No, I don’t really like what he plays on some of these shows, but I know that he retains the ability to play about anything he wants to play and I give him credit for that and he’s a thousand times ahead of Mr. Country Steel Guitar that has to rock his steel guitar back and forth in the middle of the show to try to get the children that are watching to exclaim, “Wow!”
To put it bluntly, Robert Randolph really is a monster player, but just on a different plane that a lot of the rest of us.
Another good thing about going to steel guitar shows is getting to see the products of some of the new manufacturers that have come up on the scene. Two manufacturers that come to mind that put out tremendous products are the Jackson brothers that’s you’ve heard me yelp about many times in the past. Clinesmith is another one.
Todd Clinesmith is a very famous craftsman, still not forty years old as of this writing. The products he designs and builds are second to none. What he’s building is a Bigsby steel guitar that have fame and beauty ever since it was introduced in the mid-forties. Todd’s expertise is not in innovative thinking as much as it is in the quality of workmanship that he puts into these Bigsby guitars.
I say Bigsby guitars because even though they don’t have a Bigsby serial number, they are manufactured from genuine Bigsby stock that was manufactured by Paul A. Bigsby himself. To call guitars knockoffs of the Bigsby guitar is a discredit to Bigsby and Clinesmith. What it actually is, is a Bigsby steel guitar built with better finish, polishing and overall care than the original ones built in Downy, California were. I love mine as much as I do my Bigsby.
One of the funniest Ralph Mooney stories I was reminded of while having a conversation with Ray Rider who was Waylon’s road manager. During a show in Las Vegas in one of the outlying casinos, Ralph got to drinking a little heavily and started getting very homesick for his wife and dog back in Fort Worth.
As we all know, Vegas is a long way from Fort Worth, so on the first break, Mooney went to Waylon and said, “I want you to fly me home after this gig. I don’t wanna have to ride the bus all the way back home. I’m in a hurry. I want to see my wife.”
Waylon said, “No way. You can ride the bus just like the rest of us.”
Mooney got to thinking about this during the second set, laid his bar down on the steel guitar after the second song, walked off the stage and told the bus driver he needed to see the keys to get something he needed off the bus.
He went to the bus, fired it up and drove out on to the main drag in Vegas, went out to the interstate and headed south toward Phoenix. He continued on and on and on. He got to Albuquerque before the Highway Patrol pulled him over, came along the side of the bus and beat on the door. Mooney opened the door and one of the officers yelled at him, “Where do you think you’re going?”
Mooney looked at him and smiled and said, “I’m going home to see Mrs. Moon.”
After much arguing over the phone at the police station, Waylon flew Mooney to Fort Worth and flew the driver out from Vegas to pick the bus up. All this and Mooney didn’t get fired, but got a month off without pay. He didn’t mind because he got to stay with Mrs. Moon and his dog Peppers. How can you not love Mr. Moon?
News Flash: Tommy White just called and said he’s doing the ACM Awards which I think is wonderful because now at least, steel guitar will be represented big time by one of the greatest. I just Tommy overplays and sets the west coast on fire with his abilities, because I know he can. Tommy also says he’s doing another television special called Girl’s Night Out. This should be a big plus and a big help to the reputation of steel players everywhere.
Go get’em TW. Your friends in the entire steel guitar world.
Tommy is going to have to play on some complex television sound tracks and live television, intros, turnarounds and fills. Tommy will undoubtedly not be seen. His talents will have to be heard to be appreciated. If he were only a jump-around, show biz kind of player, he would not have been hired for these great steel guitar jobs. Being able to play still comes down to the most important thing you can do if you’re a pro player.
Check out our monthly specials at http://www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday