Kellie Pickler

Apparently Kellie Pickler is a Nashville recording artist, and a star of some stature. I don’t keep up on these things, so how would I know? But she seems to have done an unusual thing – she recorded a country album, in Nashville. I happened to notice something about steel guitar during the course of my Internet researches, so I naturally clicked on the link and found all this out by reading the resulting interview, an excerpt from which follows:

There’s steel guitar all over this album. What do you think that brings out in the music that you’re making?
Steel guitar is one of my absolute favorite instruments. There’s something about the sound. It’s almost like it’s crying at times. You can feel the heartache or you can feel the fun that it’s having, I guess you could say. In songs like “Stop Cheating on Me,” it’s funny and really lighthearted — the steel guitar in that song is a smartass, you know? The steel guitar in “Mother’s Day” is crying, is emotional, is letting go.”

I got hold of the CD and gave it a listen, and it ain’t bad, pretty country, with some fine steel guitar. By whom, I couldn’t tell, so if you know, let me know.

Here’s the whole enchilada.

The Versatile Guitar String

The tail pipe fell off my Camaro on the way home from a gig one night and I wired it back up with a string from my Pack A Seat. But apparently there are other, more sinister, uses for strings. Who woulda thunk?

TOWNSVILLE’S Stuart Prison has been in lockdown in a search for three steel guitar strings officials fear may be made into garrottes.

Authorities had been made aware the guitar strings were missing several days ago but only locked down the prison for the first time yesterday, prison guards told The Courier-Mail.

“Officials suddenly realised that steel wire in the hands of dangerous men can become a deadly and silent weapon,” one source said.

“Assassins used to make their garrottes out of two handles and a loop of steel wire.

“It is easy to work out why hardened criminals should not be running around inside jail with that sort of weapon.”

It is understood the strings were taken from a guitar used in taxpayer-funded music lessons for inmates at the high-security north Queensland jail.

Kenny Brent

Faron Young had a lot of fans, and inspired a lot of singers. Hell, I’m still a fan. Kenny Brent is one fine singer and guitar player who was heavily influenced by Faron and who’s been knocking around the country music world for a long time and who was inducted into The Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008. In 1994 he yanked Faron out of retirement to do “Wine Me Up” with him, and it turned out pretty well.

South Bend

I started playing steel guitar in my home town, South Bend, IN, in the early 70’s. I’d just graduated from Indiana University with a big ol’ BA degree in Visual Communication (now known as graphic design), so the first thing I did was drive down to Nashville and get me a brand new Sho~Bud Professional. Because I wanted to play steel guitar.

Cal Sharp at the El Rancho
Playing Jim Reisner’s guitar at the El Rancho

I practiced like a friggin’ maniac for a few months and then went out to the South Bend honky-tonks and started making friends and sitting in, and pretty soon I had some gigs.

The pickers I met in the bars were some great guys. A lot of them had worked with Buddy Emmons when he was still just a local picker, and they were pretty helpful to a long-haired hippie-type guy who just wanted to play shuffles and ballads on his new steel guitar.

The first few gigs I landed were in some dives in Mishawaka and South Bend with a bunch of drunks who could barely count to 4/4, and who made more money selling speed on the breaks than they did picking, but pretty soon I was playing at the Silver Dollar Saloon in South Bend, which was the the best gig in town.

Elmer Hobor was the first steel guitar player I met, at the Silver Dollar. He let me sit in on his Sho~Bud, and that’s the first time anybody heard me play.

Jesse Smith had a band called the Roadrunners, and he hired me to pick with him. They worked pretty regular on the weekends, and they did a lot of Texas stuff, so that was cool with me.

Buddy Williams and Cal Sharp
Buddy Williams and Cal Sharp at the Silver Dollar Saloon in South Bend

Then I got hooked up with Gene Robertson, who had a band called the Echos. They had a weekend gig at the El Rancho in New Buffalo, MI, just across the state line. Buddy Williams was the guitar player. He was left-handed, and played a regular guitar upside down. D’ho! He was a Lloyd Green freak, and I tried to transpose his licks to my steel guitar. Gene and Buddy told me all about Emmons – hell, I didn’t even know that he was the steel player on so many Ray Price records. That’s how green I was. They took me to Cal City one night, where Emmons used to spend so much time, and we hung out at Mary’s Place all night ‘til they closed, which was about 5AM. Gene had another guitar player later, Ron Dailey, who was a fine player.

Chuck Drew played steel guitar at some of the joints around town. He was Buddy’s cousin, and he had a 60’s P/P without any knee levers, and I went with him to Buddy’s house in Nashville to get Buddy to update his guitar. We stayed a couple days with Buddy, and Peggy was a sweetheart, the perfect hostess, and and an angel.

Ray Barrier had a band for years at the Silver Dollar, and I worked with them once in a a while. His brother Joe played bass and Sonny Barrier was the drummer. They had bluegrass roots, but they could do some kick-ass country, especially when Houston Trivett was singing.

Junior Ward was a singer/bass player around South Bend who did some great Price stuff. Emmons played on one of his early records. Junior took up steel guitar, after he just couldn’t stand it any more, and he’s still picking.

Jim Reisner played steel guitar with Gene Robertson before I did. He was a state cop, and he pulled Johnny Paycheck’s bus over one time just so he could talk to the steel player, who was Jim Vest.

Y’know, you just can’t get anywhere as a musician unless you have some other musicians to pick with, and I’ll always be grateful to those guys around South Bend so many years ago, many of whom are dead now, for their encouragement and helpfulness.

RIP Charlie Collins, Roy Acuff Sideman

Charlie Collins, longtime guitarist in Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys, died Thursday (Jan. 12) at age 78. As someone said on the Opry tonight, he beat us going home to Jesus. I was his seat-mate on a flight to London to do the Wembley Show in 1980, and I know some of his family. He was a good ol’ boy and a great picker and will be missed by everyone who knew him or ever heard him play.