The Buddy Emmons Tribute Album

Country stars Willie, Emmylou, Rodney, Vince, Duane Eddy pay tribute to pedal steel legend Buddy Emmons. We need a publicist!
15 Tracks. 15 Artists. 15 great pedal steel players.

Check it out: Pedal Steel Project Phase II: Mastering, Artwork, Publicity
Kickstarter project/Buddy Emmons

John Anderson in the studio October 29th with (left to right) guitarist Guthrie Trapp, bassist David Hungate, guitarist Bill Hullett, John Anderson, pianist Jeff Taylor, pedal steel guitarist Buck Reid, drummer Billy Thomas and Steve Fishell.

Judi Martin’s Country – Inside & Out

The lovely, personable and talented Judi Martin used to preside over a whole slew of jam sessions and talent contests in the clubs around Nashville a few years ago, and she even put out her own magazine. I was a staff writer.

The lovely, personable and talented Judi Martin used to preside over a whole slew of jam sessions and talent contests in the clubs around Nashville a few years ago, and she even put out her own magazine, Judi Martin’s Country Inside & Out. I was a staff writer. From the May, 1993 edition:

Jammin’ With Judi Martin

Judi Martin’s Country – Inside & Out magazine has been a thought in the back of my mind for years. In the 17 years I’ve been in Nashville, I have hosted talent contests, jam sessions, benefits, hosted both a live radio show for new talent and a cable television show featuring new talent.

There is so much talent in Nashville and so much for tourists to see and do. My goal is to promote Nashville and try to focus on all aspects of the music industry.

There will be a lot of little things to change over the months ahead, but I am willing to learn as I go. I want you to give me any suggestions you think would make this a better magazine. I want it to have a personal touch. I love Nashville and one of the things I try to tell everyone I meet is that we are all here for the same reason – music!

I also like the feeling of camaraderie.

To all of you who have followed me around for so many years and been there for me and my family in some rather difficult times, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all of you that I have not yet been privileged to meet-welcome to Nashville and I hope you will join us real soon at a jam or talent contest. I am just a phone call away if I can answer any questions for you.

Be sure that you keep your phone number and address current with me if you are a musician or singer and looking for work!

Sincerely,
Judi Martin

Jam Sessions

by Cal Sharp

Up until 1980 or so, there was a lot of jamming going on in Nashville. Bass players and drummers would finish a set with hands so tired from playing thirty or forty choruses of “C-Jam Blues” or “Billie’s Bounce” at Mach 2 that they could barely open a beer. When two or three guitar players and a dance floor full of steel players all get to solo until they run out of licks or break a string, it can really wear a rhythm section out. But there was usually someone waiting for a chance to sit in, and you could take a break, grab a drink, play a little pinball, and be ready to go all night.

Jam sessions were fun. You made your money backing up singers in studios and on long road trips with sometimes questionable musicians. But at a jam session, you could get creative on some instrumentals and play whatever you wanted, or whatever you were capable of, with musicians you admired. Jazz standards, western swing, big band numbers … anything that swung and had a groove. You could play a whole-tone scale without worrying about someone giving you the hairy eyeball.

Sometimes a singer would get up, if one of the musicians knew him and he promised to do some good songs and not sing over your fills, and the band might trick him and launch into a string of double-time solos in the middle of a ballad and he’d need a country music map to fill the last verse.

When the Opry was still downtown and before Lower Broad went to hell, jam sessions like this used to go on all the time; in the clubs on Lower Broad, at the old Sho-Bud store, backstage at the Opry, in hotels during the annual DJ convention … you could park your car downtown and walk to these places and see guys like Buddy Emmons, Jimmy Bryant, Doug Jernigan, and Paul Franklin. It was great. You could learn more about your axe in one night than you could learn in a year’s worth of music lessons back home with Miss Poultice, and tourists and musicians from out-of-town would go home bragging about all the hot picking they had heard from the Nashville cats.

But it’s not happening much anymore. Some of the older players have retired or died. Some had too much fun back then and have to take it easy these days. Some only play now when there is a time card around to sign. To find picking like you used to hear all the time here in town, you pretty much have to go to one of the steel guitar conventions in Dallas or St. Louis.

It’s too bad that more of Music City’s hot musicians aren’t burning up the clubs anymore, but maybe they have to be up early for a ten o’clock to make a payment on their BMW. Or maybe they showed up at a couple of clubs and thought it looked too much like what they’d been paid to do all day. Or maybe they got stuck at the last jam session with some bass holder who should have been arrested by the Country Music Police for loitering in front of an amp.

These days a jam session is a bunch of singers in hats and striped shirts hoping somebody in the audience will sign them to a record deal. Every girl sings “Crazy,” and the band is supposed to know every song in the world, even the one that somebody just wrote in the bathroom during a sudden flash (or flush!) of inspiration. You hardly ever hear an instrumental, I guess because the band is so worn out backing up all the Garth and Reba wannabees, and there are not nearly enough shuffles being played. A lot of singers wouldn’t know a C-sharp from a flat tire, and they think all it takes to be successful in the music business is nice hair and a financial backer.

Once in a while, a group of good players might happen to wander up on stage all at the same time and start swinging, but then some slug will get up and play “Guns ‘n’ Roses” volume and some germ will want to sing some commercial piece of drek that everybody is sick of playing, and some drunk in the crowd will holler for rock ‘n’ roll. Hey, just sit there and be quiet, Mr. Beer-and-a-Shot, and enjoy the music and buy the band a round.

In the good old days, guitar slingers prowled the streets, deadeye steel players lurked in the shadows, and a jam session could break out anytime someone pulled a Telecaster on you. But today, it seems that you have to organize the thing and advertise it, and spend time on the phone to get anybody to come out. And it’s great that Judi Martin and one or two others are doing that. It’s not like the old days, but what the hell … you can hang out, show off your latest lick, get a job, and stuff yourself with free popcorn if it’s been a long time between Krystals. Be sure to listen to the radio a lot before you show up, but don’t waste your time learning the changes to “All the Things You Are,” because chances are slim that anyone will know them.

Jack Cotton

Jack CottonSometimes when you’re out on the road you see more of friends that live a few neighborhoods away in Nashville than you do at home. I was in Kansas playing a club with WC Edgar and in walked Jack Cotton. He’d been driving past in a bus and saw our name on the marquee. Ha. Jack’s from my part of the world, NE Indiana, Hammond in his case and South Bend in mine, and he’s been in Nashville since 1980 or so. And he’s a Cubs fan, which is a good thing. I used to go to Jack’s house and watch the Super Bowl, and you could watch any Super Bowl you wanted because he’s got them all taped.

Jack’s a fine singer and bass player who’s worked with Eddy Raven, Dottie West, Sammy Kershaw and the famous “many others”, like I have. He sent me a great email:

“Hey Cal, love to read your stories. I just read the one about the ‘Fans’, good stuff. I’ll share one with you if don’t mind. We were in Kansas for a one nighter with Eddy Raven and one of the young guys in the local opening band was trying to start up a conversation after the show and asked, ‘So do you guys work with Eddy all the time? Or does he have a regular band?’ I couldn’t help it, I had to laugh out loud in his face.”

So there ya go, that’s the kind of respect we road pickers get sometimes.

Carol Lee hangs it up

Carol Lee Cooper has closed out a 40-year career as a background singer on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Carol Lee Cooper has closed out a 40-year career as a background singer on Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.
Carol Lee was one of the first things I noticed the first time I worked the Opry, right after I ogled those three black Emmons steel guitars, belonging to Sonny, Hal and Weldon, on the stage. Now she’s retiring. Sad to see her go.
Carol Lee Cooper

Who played Speedy West in “Coal Miner’s Daughter”?

He recorded with Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole and the Beach Boys, wrote a No. 1 single for Chubby Checker and arranged Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”.

Interesting bit of trivia, eh? He died Wednesday in Franklin, TN at 81. Need some hints? He recorded with Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole and the Beach Boys, wrote a No. 1 single for Chubby Checker and arranged Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”. He played on the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and arranged and played on Nat King Cole’s hit “Ramblin’ Rose” and acted in an episode of “Rawhide”. This guy really got around. Give up? Here’s the answer.

1 of 5 country music fans don’t listen to country stations

One in five country music fans never tune in to country radio stations

What a shock, eh? We all know country radio sucks, because they don’t play country music. Duh.

One in five country music fans never tune in to country radio stations, according to a research study released Wednesday afternoon at Country Radio Seminar, a four-day national gathering of music makers, players and radio industry executives in downtown Nashville.

Instead, self-described country music fans get their music from websites, their own collections stored on iPods or listening to other types of radio stations, the annual report on industry trends found.

When I want to listen to country music I get it from my own collection, certainly not from the radio. Unless it’s an internet station, like Shufflemainia.

Read the rest of the story on The Tennessean.

Dead Steel Guitar Players

“Can you think of a dead steel guitar player?” one of us asked.

It was a dark and stormy night and I was on a long road trip with Faron, and RIchard and I were the last ones still up, drinking one more beer (apiece) and discussing life in general.

“Can you think of a dead steel guitar player?” one of us asked. “I mean a famous one, a well-known one, who worked with big artists and was on some hit records?”

Another swallow of beer, and the other one of us said, “Hmm, no.”

We considered that for a few moments as the dark Texas landscape whizzed by at 70mph. Oh, wait, the bus was going 70mph. Neither one of us could think of a dead steel guitar player.

Pete Drake died not too long after that, in 1988, and AFAWK he was the first one to go to the big recording studio in the sky. Jimmy Day went in 1999 and Jimmy Crawford in 2005. You can look up other dead musicians here.

Some not so well known steel guitar players, guys that I hung around with in Nashville and traded licks with, died some time after that late-night bus conversation.

Chuck BartlettChuck Bartlett was a fine player, from Ohio, who worked with John Conlee and Kitty Wells and who played every club in Nashville at one time or another, night after night, when he wasn’t on the road. He had a beautiful Sho~Bud that I sat in on many times. I followed him on the Red Sovine gig. Cancer got him.

I met Wayne Kincaid at a club on Lower Broad in 1972 when I bought my first steel guitar at the Sho~Bud store. I’d hang out in Merchant’s and watch him play, and on the breaks I’d bug him, asking what this or that knee lever did or something. He was an old West Virginia coal miner, and a crotchety bastard whom everybody didn’t get along with, but we were great friends. He minded my drink for me one time at Gabe’s when I had to go knock some smart-ass out the door. He was at Gabe’s for many years, and toward the end the cancer was really getting to him and he’d call me at the last minute some nights to sub for him when the pain was too bad. I went to his funeral, in Fairview, where Billy Walker presided over the proceedings from the pulpit and LaDonna Capps sang, and I inherited his gig at Gabe’s.
Wayne Kincaid on steel guitar
There’s been a bunch of other pickers pass on since I’ve been in town. Guys I’ve worked with, roomed on the road with, learned music from, drank with, loaned money to… If you have a musician friend, cherish him or her. At 2AM after the gig when you’re packing up your axe you never can be sure that you’ll ever pick together again.

Name That Tune

When you work with the same bunch of musicians for a while, or even the same kind of musicians, you develop nicknames or introductions for oft-played songs.

When you work with the same bunch of musicians for a while, or even the same kind of musicians, you develop nicknames or introductions for oft-played songs. I worked with Faron Young for a long time, and when he said “Here’s Cal’s favorite song” I knew we were going to do “Country Girl”. Didn’t matter if I hated that song, which I didn’t, but it was our cue to kick it off. Just part of the show.

I worked with a bass player who, when he said “Here’s my favorite George Jones song” I knew to kick off “She Thinks I Still Care”. Which goes by a lot of other nicknames, like “She Stinks But I Still Care”, “She Thinks I Steal Cars” and “She Thinks I’m Still Queer” to name a few.

“The Bottle Let Me Down” and “Swingin’ Doors” are often confused, which wouldn’t be a big deal if they weren’t in such disparate keys, “Bottle” usually being in “D” and “Doors” usually being in “G”. So we developed a mnemonic to help us remember their respective keys, and we ever after called “The Bottle Let Me Down” “D Bottle Let Me Down”. “Swingin’ Doors” has also been known as “Closin’ Time”.

So the chick singer wants to do “Crazy”? Holler “Nuts” across the bandstand and we all know we have to play “Crazy” yet again.

I do an instrumental rendition of Gene Watson’s version of “No One Will Ever Know” and I call it “No One Will Ever Suspect”. Which isn’t far from the truth most of the time. And “Steel Guitar Rag” is “The Rag’.

One band I worked with did “When Two Worlds Collide” and we called it “Clyde”. Roger MIller, who wrote it, called it the same thing, or so we later heard.

“The Other Woman’’ is “The Udder Woman” or “the Other Mother”, “Last Date” is “Lost Date”, “Statue of A Fool” is “Statutory Fool” and “From the Window Up Above” is “From the Window of A Bus”.

There’s also some yet un-written songs, like “I Miss You More Every Day, But My Aim’s Getting Better”.

But our favorite song is “Here’s our favorite song, and we hope it’s one of yours”, Kenny Price’s “The Shortest Song in the World”, the break song.