Friday, July 31, 2015


Okay hot shot, you've got your axe, you have the three chord blues progression ready to go, and an arsenal of killer licks. You are the man. Now add a dozen or so more strings. Challenged yet? How's about adding a couple pedals to that, to keep your loafing feet something to do. No wait, let's make it three pedals. Think you got what it takes? Not so fast. Your knees are just sitting around doing nothing, let's add a couple levers for you to operate with them. What the hell, let's just get rid of those frets. You're a hot shit guitarist, you can stay in tune without them. Wait, where are you going? Does the pedal steel guitar scare you?

Fu-huck. Pedal steel has got to be one of the most complicated instruments to play, in any genre. And pedal steel players, by and large, get very little recognition for what they do. Sure, fiends of the instrument, and country and western fans, appreciate a good petal steel player, but the general public see them as side players at best, and most think of the instrument as a novelty. If there was ona person who tried to change that perception, it was Buddy Emmons, a pedal steel player who got his start with Little Jimmy Dickens, and was also in Ernest Tubb's band, Ray Price's, and the Everly Brothers'. Once he had the pedal steel down, he started tweaking it to fill gaps in available notes to play, making it harder to play. In 1963, after backing some of the biggest names in country and western, he recorded a pedal steel jazz album that was raved about in Downbeat magazine, the bible of jazz heads. Dude was the shit.

When Emmons was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1981, they referred to him as a "Major stylist, tuning innovator and originator, creator of enduring licks, riffs, and unique jazz improvisations, composer, and for a quarter century, the world's foremost steel guitarist." And that was a quarter century before he retired. Emmons died earlier this week so it's high time to throw him in the mix. Here's just a random sampling. There's a bunch of videos at YouTube should these wet your whistle.

Buddy Emmons - Rose City Chimes mp3 at Basement Rug
Buddy Emmons - Gravy Waltz mp3 at The Rising Storm
Buddy Emmons (backing Casey Clark) - Hey Now mp3 at Buddy Emmons
Buddy Emmons - Official site
Buddy Emmons at Wikipedia

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