Once upon a time there was a band that billed themselves as a country band. They played a bunch of good ol’ country songs and had a chick singer and OK vocals and a pretty good guitar player, but they didn’t have a steel guitar in the band. Or a fiddle, for that matter. Now, how ya gonna do Tammy Wynette or Ray Price like that? Well, you can’t, not really.
This band was fairly popular and had quite a following, but they sounded pretty lame to me and I didn’t enjoy listening to them. Kinda like that time when one of the speakers went out in my car stereo.
Most people at a live music event don’t know what a steel guitar is, and a lot of people couldn’t even identify the bass player in a lineup if he shot somebody and the police were holding them as a witness. Singers get most of the attention. But however musically unsophisticated an audience may be, wouldn’t you think a smattering of them could tell something was terribly wrong if there were no steel guitar in “Apartment No. 9”?
I get a compliment every once in a great while from a non-musician, and it’s always a surprise when someone seems to know what I’m up to on the stage. A nice surprise, and always unexpected, as surprises often are. Sometimes they just want to know somebody in the band and they pick on me for some reason, even if they think I’m the keyboard player, but if they buy me a beer, so much the better.
I’d like to think that most people – even though they can’t actually identify the sound or sight of a steel guitar – still recognize it somewhere in their subconscious as an integral part of, say, “Together Again” or “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” while they’re dancing and if it weren’t there they would get a nagging feeling that something was wrong and become disoriented and maybe two-step on their partner’s instep.
Everything just goes better with a steel guitar.