There’s lots of different kinds of steel players. Pro’s, amateurs, hobbyists, wannabees… You can make it the central point of your life and do it all the time and aspire to be a pro, or you can just do it for the fun of it, and maybe make a little extra cash once in a while.
You can work in a studio most of the time, or do a road gig, or play in church, or just with friends in someone’s garage, or maybe only at home as a hobby for the edification of your wife and kids.
Me, I came up the way most guys who wind up doing it for a living usually do, playing in bars, getting chops, and then going on to working artist gigs on the road and playing sessions. Buddy and a zillion other players came up that way, although Weldon Myrick told me that he hardly ever worked bars, but he’s gotta be an exception. Just about every pro steel player I know spent years in bars and honky-tonks developing and refining their technique, and you learn a lot doing that. Y’know, when you’re in a live playing situation, with dancers and drinkers waiting for the next song, and the singer calls some song you might or might not have ever heard, you gotta jump on it and play something at least passable, and you’ve got to tap into your wealth of musical knowledge to come up with something. You get this wealth of musical knowledge from lots of experience and by listening to a lot of music, if you’re serious about being a good steel guitar player. You have to listen to a lot of music. You really do. I used to listen to Charlie Parker and Jake Hooker tapes while I slept, and it made a difference.
Coming up the way I did, playing bars most of the time, I think I developed a kind of musician’s personality, in that I became inured to the night life, which ain’t no good life, and I acquired a tolerance for drinkers, loose women, druggies, con artists, ego maniacs and other characters who tend to live life on the edge, and after a while these “bar people” began to seem normal to me. Part of the price you pay for spending half your life in bars with a bar in one hand and a drink in the other, waiting for the next shuffle and pursuing ”that tone”. So now I’m scarred for life, unable to develop and maintain relationships with “day people”. Yikes!
So when you’re visiting Mom or looking for a day job or you’re in social situations with people who might be a little more – refined, shall we say? – you might endeavor to overcome the years of ill-treatment and exploitation, albeit precipitated by your own insane addiction to the steel guitar, at the hands of the music business, and be sure to use the correct fork at dinner and not blurt out “Fuck, fuck” like you’ve got Tourette’s syndrome, and to make any other necessary personality adjustments to become socially acceptable, or merely adequate, at least for a little while, or as long as you can fake it.