Man, I’ve worked as a steel guitar player with a passel of guitar players. Hundreds, at least. The first one of any note was Buddy Williams, from Michigan City, IN. He was a Lloyd Green fan, and I learned a bunch of licks from him. South Bend Buddy and me in front of the Silver Dollar Saloon.
I had the good fortune to work with Pete Mitchell from the late 70’s up until Oct 29, 2006 on gigs ranging from Ernest Tubb to Broadway to skull orchards on Dickerson Pike, and it was always a pleasure. Pete was the tastiest player in the world, and had more empathy and reciprocity with a steel guitar player than anybody. He knew how to comp, play tic-tac or just lay out when it was my turn to play.
He moved to Texas a few years ago and got kidnapped by Herb Steiner and I never saw him again. Then he died. He was the best.
Pete Mitchell – Texas Troubadour Passes
Other fine guitar players I’ve worked with were Roy Melton, Marc Rogers, Richard Bass, Dan Drilling, Redd Voelkaert, Cliff Parker, and more recently Lyndell East, Bebo Whitehead, Clyde Sutton and Bill Hullett. But most of the others made me wish I’d stayed home and watched “Saturday Night Live”, at least up until the 90’s. But, hell, it was work and a little money, like digging a ditch or unloading trucks, and I had to get my roast out of layaway at Kroger.
I worked a few gigs with Pete Wade, clubs and sessions, and he’d holler at me to play what Lloyd played on some song they were on, which had me scratching my temporal lobe trying to play a cheap Japanese knockoff of what I could remember. I worked a gig with Lenny Breau when I was too green to do much, but it was fun anyway, listening to him. I played a little with Leon Rhodes when he was working a gig at a hotel by the new Opry with Little Roy Wiggins. I dragged my stuff in and sat in on a few songs. It didn’t go real well, but I wasn’t afraid of nuthin’ back then.
I worked with a drummer once who didn’t know the difference between a pair of brushes and his ass, and I put a picture of Buddy Harman on his snare before the gig one time and he walked around all night asking who it was.
It’s all cool to play 40 notes a bar on “Rocky Top” or “The Fireman”, but when the singer calls “Make the World Go Away” I wish the guitar player would go away if he can’t or won’t change his attitude.
It’s not that fucking hard to play 3 or 4 notes, ala Grady or Jimmy, instead of 162 notes, which fills a much needed gap. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the other “Big E”, E=mc2 – (where E = ego, M = music, and C = chops.) It doesn’t take a lot of dexterity, just taste, and the ability to subjugate yourself to the song and the singer. Geez, unless you’re the featured instrumentalist your job is to make the song and the singer sound good, right? Or did nobody ever tell you that? What, are you afraid someone might think you’re not a hot Nashville Cat if you only play 3 notes in one bar, or if the steel player gets more notes out than you do?