Steel in the spotlight

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The news is depressing, so let's turn to music for some relief.

Ever wondered how virtuosi like Herb Remington, Leon McAuliffe, Santo and Johnny, Noel Boggs, and Bobby Koefer tease those sweet sounds out of their steel guitars?

Steel guitarist Rick Alexander has posted a series of song and technique videos on YouTube demonstrating the non-pedal steel guitar -- sometimes called lap steel or console steel. Instead of having a series of pedals to alter the pitch of the strings, non-pedal steel guitar usually has multiple necks -- sets of six or eight strings, tuned differently -- enabling the player to switch between keys without retuning the instrument.

All the videos are shot from above, so you get a good view of what he's doing with his picks and steel bar, and in the instructional videos he carefully explains every move he makes.

Here's the eight-minute course intro -- Steel Basics 101:

And here's Rick playing a Hawaiian number, "Song of the Islands":

Rick Alexander has teamed up with Texas Playboy Herb Remington to produce "Tuff Fun Tab," a book of 12 songs hand-annotated with Herb's chords and tablature and accompanied by a CD with two versions of each song -- one with Herb on steel, and one with backup only by Rick's band. It includes "Steel Guitar Rag," "Maiden's Prayer," "Love Me Tender," and "Song of the Islands."

This little detail from the Wikipedia bio of the Farina brothers, Santo and Johnny, made me smile:

When they were very young, their dad was drafted into the Army and stationed in Oklahoma. There (on the radio) he heard this beautiful music. It was the sound of the steel guitar and he wrote home to his wife and said "I’d like the boys to learn to play this instrument."

I like to think Mr. Farina was listening to this guy over KVOO -- from "Steel Guitar Rag" to "Sleepwalk" in one generation.

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The A team said:

How about a little Junior Brown guit-steel?

W. Author Profile Page said:

My favorite pedal steel guitarist is Ralph Mooney, and he is an Oklahoman.

Check out his impressive resume:

One that's left off of the list is that Mooney played pedal steel on Charley Pride's "In Person" LP. That's the one that has Pride's version of "Kaw-Liga." Mooney's playing on that song will raise the hair on your head and make you dance, too. It also was a hit.

A team, I had never seen a guit-steel before. Very cool. Here's Junior Brown's website.

W., that is an impressive resume. I see that Mooney also wrote "Crazy Arms," one of Ray Price's big hits.

Here's Ralph Mooney playing "I'm Ragged But I'm Right".

And here's Junior Brown playing "My Wife Thinks You're Dead" -- it's like sleight of hand when he switches from the standard neck to the steel as he takes the bar out and puts it away. Now you see it, now you don't.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 10, 2007 6:58 PM.

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