Let me start from the beggining, I actually started playing music around 1964, and around the late 60s I had a girl freind that had a "Supro Lap Steel." I was in a Rock & Roll band at the time and eventually we started experimenting with some of the country sound such as the Hank Sr, classics. I didn't know it then but of course I do now, the Steel Guitar player on the tracks such as "Your Cheatin' Heart," and "Hey Good Lookin," were played by the Great Don Helms! I recently joined the NTSGA, (North Tennessee Steel Guitar Association), and was able to meet and talk with Don in person. I again met him wqhile he was over at Bobby Seymour's store and was able to really talk with him person to person about the details of the various songs. I again met him while he was over at Bobby Seymour's store and was able to really talk with him person to person about the details of the various songs. I guess I feel that I owe something to Don as he was probably the first steel player to infulence me.
I started out as a bass player and took Standup bass as my major in College, anyway I guess I started to hear music more towards the melody side and naturally tried to manifest that on the Bass guitar. Well, needless to say in the late 60s and up untill the time of the group "YES," it really wasn't popular to play like that. I started to lose work and relalized that if I was going to be successful I'd have to move into a melody instrument. I went to the music store and looked around and there it was, a Pedal Steel Guitar! I was very intriged by the possiblitites of the instrument. I bought my first Pedal Steel guitar that day!
In the midddle 70s I started to diversify music my music palette and I was informed by a fellow musician to pick some "Charlie Parker," albums so I did. I couldn't beleive what I was hearing! this seemed to be going in exactly the direction that I was wanting to go. I tried like Hel--! to make that same sound on the steel. It was possible to play most of the lines but the tone of the steel, especially in the upper register, did not fit. Again, the woman I was dating at the time had an Alto sax that she used in school. I remember at the club I was playing, in the breaks I used to go into the bathroom and practice "Georgia." When I went to play in Bruxxelles, Belgium, I was around alot of great horn players and was able to ask questions and make jumps in my playing.
This was my first time to be at Scotty's Steel show and the feeling there was just unbelievable! I couldn't imagine how many Steel Guitar players that were there! I did not have a rehearsal with the band so that was a variable that I had to deal with. Bill Stafford and myself were going to spilt the set. Bill and I were to go on at 11:40 and play till 11:55. At about 12:45 we both took our "Excel" guitars to the side of the stage and built them up. I sat and waited. Al Brisco, a super steeler from Canada was playing before us and I listen to his set and tried to "cool out"! Finally it was time to go up and Bill and I postioned our Guitars and did final tweekings. Bill started the set the set with a Classical piece from Anton Dvorak called "The New World Symphony." I played the soprano sax with him and after he had played awhile he gave me a section to play and then we both traded playing off the theme, what a beautiful song! The next tune Bill did was a German folk song and I don't remember the name. Bill once again wove his beautiful Technique to produce some unique playing! I played Flute with him this time and he gave me a section of the song to improvise in. The band consisted of the great Bobby Caldwell on Guitar, Russ Weaver on Bass, Roy Rosetta on Keys and Bobby Regot on Drums. I was finally going to play at the biggest Steel Convention in the WORLD! The selections that I had chosen to play were 1. a practice etude, that goes through a bunch of different songs, feels and timings. It's made up of a bunch of material that will some day turn into many different songs. 2. "Take 5", a selection off my CD, this song written by Dave Brubeck is in 5/4 time and that is not your normal Steel Guitar time signature! Yes, I was rightfully worried about this selection! The band played it with such professional conviction that my worries soon faded and I was able to focus on my execution. The last selection was "Heavenly Blues" which is also off the CD, this was fun to play. I guess I was feeling very confident and I got the same feeling from the rest of the band and we really wailed on this tune! I came off stage feeling exhilarated! Jay Dee Manes, the new indutie into the "Steel Guitar hall of fame" was going on stage as I was coming off and he told me "That sounded great"! I guess I was "HIGH" at that point, high on life and just glad to be there and thankful that I had the chance to play! That's how I felt!
This is my first Big Band and I'll have to say this band is a lot of fun! I play mostly Sax for this group but they also have some selections that I play Steel on as well. When I'm in the Sax section I've got 4 Trombones behind me and behind them there are 4 Trumpets. Included in the band is naturally a rhythm section of Drums, Bass, Keybords, and Guitar. We can have up to 4 front singers for the band, depending on the requirements of the job. To be in the middle of all this Harmony and Rhythm is really an awesome feeling. There is just so much to hear! It's neat to here how your own part fits in with the rest of the band. I'll take home some of the arrangments to practice and when you play them by yourself it can sound very dissonant, but in context with the group it's brings out the harmony of what the arranger is trying to convey.
I was playing at a club in Lexington in the early 70s and we had a bass player that was an ok player, but he was a real nice guy, okay he made a few clams. Anyway, the band leader would get drunk on alot of the gigs and end up firing the poor guy and the next morning he would hire him back. Well, that night the leader fired him and the next morning he hired him back and I was practicing in the club and he came in and I asked him what happened. The bass player told me that he told the leader that if he ever fired him again he was going to quit!
The Steel Guitar that I'm currently using right now is an "EXCEL." This Guitar was custom made to my specs by Mitsou Fujii of the FUZZY Steel Guitar Products out of Tokyo, Japan. This Guitar allows me to have an edge and I count on the Guitar to perform it's job every time! Mitsou really puts workmanship into everyone of his Steels and it shows! Believe me I wouldn't play it if it didn't hold up to it's end of the bargin! Other than the EXCEL, I've got my old MSA that was made for me in 1974. This guitar was very good to me and we saw a lot of miles together.