Western Swing: July 2007 Archives

Yes, I know it's Dfest weekend, with bands playing on 13 stages in the Blue Dome District until 2 a.m., but if your tastes run more retro than metro, you won't be left out.

Saturday morning from 8 to 10 on KXBL 99.5, legendary country DJ Billy Parker will be playing two hours of western swing and truly classic country.

Then Saturday evening from 7 to 8 on KWGS 89.5, you can hear music historian John Wooley spin his favorite western swing discs on "Swing on This." John's show is followed at 8 p.m. by two hours of "Big Band Saturday Night."

But if you want to hear live western swing the way it should be swung, you need to head down Route 66 to Bristow. Bob Wills' Texas Playboys will be performing at 8 p.m. at the National Day of the American Cowboy in Bristow's City Park, joined by Billy Mata and Richard Helsley of the western swing band The Texas Tradition (Here are directions to the park.) The Playboys' performance caps a day of events in Bristow, starting with a 10 a.m. parade, a chuck wagon lunch at 1, and a concert beginning at 7 with David Ingles and His Cowboy Band.

Here's a minute-long clip from a performance earlier this month: Bob Wills' Texas Playboys performing "A Big Ball in Cowtown," featuring a steel guitar solo by Bobby Koefer.

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Western Swing category from July 2007.

Western Swing: June 2007 is the previous archive.

Western Swing: August 2007 is the next archive.

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