Wednesday, April 5, 2017

steel: pedal steel

purchase [Take It Easy]
purchase [These Days]
purchase [Sleepwalk]

I've had a lot of work to do to put this together. More than I anticipated. Quite some time back in this blog, I commented that covering a theme sometimes requires that you educate yourself: read, listen, dig around.

I'm still wet around the ears. Some day I would like to own and learn how to play the pedal steel guitar. It's a pretty intimidating instrument - and this from a guitar player who doesnt have first hand experience except for listening. But I have been doing a little background reading and listening, both of which only further my previous conviction about the contraption. Contraption in that  -if it is your stage instrument, you need to know how to set it up. It's not an instrument you pull out of its case, tune and go (like a guitar or a flute): you'll need a tool kit to put it together before your gig - tightening bolts, attaching legs and pedals in addition to the sound cables. There are various configurations (2 necks, 10 string or more), and then there are the pedals:  for volume and several others that bend combinations of strings - best, apparently, in combination. So, you've got one hand sliding the steel bar, the other picking combinations of strings and then your feet (and knees) controlling volume and bending.

While the pedal steel features in country music (and was birthed in the 30's out of an interest in the Hawaiian slide), it was a variety of 70's music that initially got me interested. The deeper I looked into that 70's sound, the more I saw that there were a handful of pedal steel players that got around, sort of a shared community of the skilled. . Many of the famous names end up doing session work for others, partly because the good are so few and far between.

The 70's music that turned me on to the sound include the following:

One of the Doobie Brothers steel players was John McFee. McFee also played on The Who's The Kids Are Allright. He has also played with Elvis Costello, Hewey Lewis, the Grateful Dead and more.

Jeff "Skunk" Baxter also played with the Doobie Brothers. Before that, he played with Hendrix. He played with Steely Dan up through Pretzel Logic before moving to the Doobie Brothers.

Sneaky Pete Kleinow (RIP 2007) similarly got around, playing with Steve Miller, the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and others. Sometimes credited as the man who brought the pedal steel to rock.

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