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- Ray Charles featuring Buddy Emmons
- Tommy White’s SGHOF Nomination
- Another Take on “Is Country Music Dead?”
- Steel Guitar Amp Survey
- Responses to “Is Country Music Dead?”
- Is Country Music Dead?
- Live Steel Music in Nashville
- Pedal Spacing
- Steel Guitar as a Solo Instrument; the Road Musicians’ Diet
- The Hitchhiker
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This is the text of Tom Bradshaw’s letter to the Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame nominating Tommy White. The letter itself has proper formatting that was hard to convert for this blog. You can see the original as a PDF file here (thanks to Bruce Linde).
As a result of Tom’s efforts, Tommy White was inducted into the HOF in 2013.
P.O. Box 931 — Concord, CA 94522
Committee of the Hall of Fame
Steel Guitar Convention Board
9535 Midland Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63114
Subject: Hall of Fame Nomination of Tommy White
Tommy White’s accomplishments over the past 38 years are detailed in the headings that follow. His accumulated “musical credentials” listed herein should confirm the profound impact he has had on the advancement of the steel guitar and his influence on the players of the instrument. During those 38 years he has projected the steel guitar as a dominant sound in Country Music.
Getting Started:Tommy White was born on January 9, 1960 in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Tom White Jr., an accomplished steel guitarist. With his father teaching, Tommy quickly distinguished himself with his fast-paced proficiency, prompting some observers to view him as a child prodigy.
Tommy’s musical achievements as a youth can be documented in annual increments: At age 9 he received his first pedal steel. By 10 he was playing small clubs and other venues in and about his hometown of Louisville. By 11 he was so advanced as to be recruited by Grand Ole Opry member and star, Stu Phillips. As a member of Stu’s ensemble, he toured Michigan, playing concerts in high school auditoriums and at private parties. When 13 he was performing at steel guitar shows and other events including occasional subbing for his dad with Red and Gene Stewart, Red being the writer of “Tennessee Waltz”. That also included several performances with Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys. At 14, he was the staff steel guitarist for the Lincoln Jamboree, in Hodgenville, Kentucky, the birthplace of our 16th President. This Jamboree was, and still remains, Kentucky’s most prestigious Country Music venue, using an Opry-like format while hosting regional artists and national stars. By 15 he was giving informal lessons to local beginning steel guitarists. And at that same time, Ron Lashley of the Emmons’ Guitar Company took note of Tommy’s musical talent, producing the teenager’s first album, “Tommy White, 100 Proof Steel, Aged 15 Years”. When 16, Tommy was hired by Grammy award winner, Donna Fargo, a job that launched his professional career, leading to the accumulation of the following body of work. Mastering the steel guitar could be said to be his life’s obsession.
Tommy’s touring history has placed him in close proximity with thousands of music enthusiasts who have been exposed to the steel guitar and his mastery of it. It cannot be known how many of those enthusiasts were encouraged to also play the instrument simply because of Tommy’s performance skills with, but assuredly those skills caused all to appreciate the instrument’s capabilities and its musical potential.
With Stu Phillips, 1971-1972: (previously detailed).
With Donna Fargo, 1976-1985: Each year of his touring with Fargo brought Tommy before thousands of people at 30 to 175 different locations in the US and Canada. Notable venues included The Golden Nugget and Four Queens in Las Vegas; Gilly’s in Texas, and the Wolftrapp in Virginia. These dates also included numerous coliseums, civic centers and famous theaters coast to coast. One tour included performing with the Kansas City symphony with one of Elvis Presley’s conductors, Joe Guercio.
With The Whites and Ricky Skaggs, 1985-1993: These tours involved 100 to 150 dates a year. Although the Whites employed Tommy, Ricky Skaggs was often included as a headliner because Ricky and Sharon White were husband and wife. This touring once included a “Heads of State” dinner in Washington, D.C. Also included were many corporate events in which Skaggs was the headliner. The Whites and Donna Fargo did appear separately, but had similar touring schedules and appearance dates. Many of those dates were at the largest music festivals, one of significance being the “Jamboree in the Hills” in St. Clairsville, Ohio. Well over sixty thousand people were in attendance at each of the three appearances Tommy made there with Fargo and the Whites at that venue. With The Whites, Tommy’s concert travels also took him to Israel, Bahrain, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, Germany, England, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
With Vince Gill, 2005-2006: This touring consisted of 10 road dates, one being at the Florida Strawberry Festival, attended by thousands. Also included were appearances at many Civic Centers, and interestingly, at private auctions. As an aside, Tommy was originally asked to join Vince Gill’s band some 18 years ago. Tommy declined the offer, but recommended John Hughey in his place. The result of that recommendation became somewhat historic, since it led to John’s recording style being closely associated with Gill.
With Steve Wariner, 2007-2008: For the past 2 years, Tommy has accepted occasional road dates with Steve, allowing him to “get out of town and have a break from my Grand Ole Opry schedule”. Steve plays about 6 dates annually, mostly in Texas. There, large dance halls draw hundreds of people, one being the “Cowboys Club” in Dallas, Texas, “which is always packed” states Tommy.
The following are the major artists with whom Tommy has recorded, being the sole steel guitarist on nearly every album on this list.
Artist or Group: Album Title: Instrument: Year
The WhitesDoing It By The Book Steel 1988
Stonewall Jackson Stonewall Jackson & & Super Friends Steel 1990
Tom Stripe Never Too LateDobro & Steel1991
Tim TeschTim TeschSteel1992
The Cox FamilyEverybody’s Reaching Out For SomeoneSteel1993
Jody KingPhotographs & MemoriesSteel1993
ShenandoahUnder The KudzuDobro & Steel1993
Various ArtistsChess Rhythm & RollSteel1994
Various ArtistsAlwaysDobro & Steel1995
Craig ChambersNot Just Another Pretty HatSteel1995
Roger Brown & Swing CityRoger Brown & Swing CitySteel1996
The MartinsWherever You Are Dobro & Steel1996
Various ArtistsAmazing Grace,Vol.2, “A Country Salute To Gospel”Steel1997
Tom T. HallHome GrownDobro & Steel1997
Various ArtistsAwesome God, “A Tribute to Rich MullinsSteel1998
Chonda PierceHavin’ A Girls’ Night OutSteel1998
Prince Of EgyptOriginal Soundtrack Steel1998
Various Artists Through The Skies Steel1998
Gary Chapman Outside Lap Steel & Steel1999
John Michael Montgomery Brand New Me Steel2000
Jeff Best Bud’s A Little Weiser Now Steel2000
Jessica King Gift Steel2000
Jeff & Sheri EasterOrdinary Day Dobro & Steel2000
The Crabb Family Pray Steel2000
Various Artists Sessions, Vol. 2 Steel2000
Ricky Lynn Gregg Careful What You Wish For Dobro & Steel2001
The Oak Ridge Boys From The Heart Dobro & Steel2001
Joe Diffie In Another World Dobro & Steel2001
Wendy Manley Indigo Blue Steel2002
Robert Owens “Love Will Find Its Way”
The Best of Robert OwensSteel2002
Joe NicholsMan With a MemorySteel2002
Bluegrass All-StarsBluegrass All-StarsDobro & Steel2003
Play Country Classics
The Crabb FamilyCrabb CollectionSteel2003
Paul Brewster Everybody’s Talkin’ Dobro, Steel & Pedalbro2003
Gerald Crabb Roads That I’ve Traveled Dobro & Steel2004
Various Artists Blues Tribute to Eric Clapton Dobro2004
Cary Grace Book of Rhymes Dobro & Steel2004
Various Artists Chiristian Kidz!Dobro & Steel2004
Circle of Friends
Del WayMercy Came DownSteel2004
Stephen AnthonyStephen AnthonyDobro & Steel2004
Ray PillowCountry ClassSteel2005
Various ArtistsAerograss Dobro & Steel2005
Kenny Chesney Be As You Are (SongsFrom an Old Blue Chair)Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Beatlesgrass Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Best Uv Gass Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Deadgrass Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Eagles Grass Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists FleetwoodgrassDobro & Steel2005
Various Artists GospelgrassDobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Grassroots Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Kidsgrass Dobro & Steel2005
Cirrha Niva Liaison de la Morte Steel2005
The Crabb Family Locket Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Marleygrass Dobro & Steel2005
McRaes Perfect Love Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Simon & Grassfunkel Dobro & Steel2005
Danney Ball Songwrangler Steel2005
Various Artists Stonesgrass Dobro & Steel2005
Various Artists Taylorgrass Dobro & Steel2005
The Crabb Family Blur The Lines Steel, Sitar &
The Crabb Family Blur The Lines Steel, Sitar &
Various ArtistsElvisgrassDobro & Steel2006
Pam TillisJust Another TimeDobro & Steel2006
Pat WatersRight Where I Belong Steel2006
Austins Bridge Austins Bridge Steel, Dobro, Sitar2007Weissenborn
Various Artists “Boots Too Big Too Fill”Dobro & Steel2007
Tribute to Gene AutryDobro & Steel2007
Various ArtistsHave Yourself A MerryDobro & Steel2007
David Ball Heartaches by the Number Steel2007
Sherry Lynn It’s A Woman Thing Steel2007
Jernie Jernie Dobro & Steel2007
Jerry Adams Jerry Adams Steel2007
Karen Peck & New River Journey of Joy Dobro, Sitar & Steel2007
Daniel Lee Martin On My Way To You Steel2007
Various Artists CashgrasDobro & Steel2007
Jerry KilgoreLoaded and EmptySteel2007
Cindy StandageSame Red HairDobro & Steel2007
Grand Ole Opry Staff BandGrand Ole Opry Country
Classics, Vol. 1 (Recorded live on the Opry stage)Steel2007
Vince GillSatisfied Mind Steel2007
Various ArtistsGospel Favorites From
The Grand Ole OprySteel2008
Ronnie Millsap Amazing GraceSteel2008
Ricky Skaggs & The Whites Family Bible Steel2008
Various Artists Cashgrass Steel2008
Jerry Kilgore Loaded & Empty Steel2008
LIMITED SESSION WORK WITH NOTED ARTISTS
The artists in the following list are those that Tommy can recall recording for, the recorded work eventually ending up on albums. But, the session work listed here did not lead to an album being released on which Tommy was the sole steel guitarist (as emphasized in the previous list).
Roger Brown & Swing City
The Cox Family
The Crabb Family
Jeff & Sheri Easter
Ricky Lynn Gregg
Jernie Sherry Lynn
Daniel Lee Martin
John Michael Montgomery
Oak Ridge Boys
Karen Peck & New River
“NON-NOTABLE” RECORDING SESSIONS
It is impossible for Tommy to remember the hundreds of custom recordings and albums he has recorded, involving unknowns: those being people wishing to have demo-recordings for presentations to major record labels or “vanity-recordings” by individuals wanting to simply have a recording of their own voice or music! Many recordings have included gospel groups and nightclub acts by performers wanting albums or CD’s for demonstration presentations. There were also innumerable sessions of jingle recordings for radio and TV distribution.
Promotional videos are made for advertising the upcoming release and sale of albums produced by artists and groups. Tommy has appeared and participated in the making of the following:
Title:Artist or Group:Year:
“Its Not What You Know”The Whites1988
“The Smith Brothers”The Smith Brothers1996
“A Night To Remember”Joe Diffie1999
“An Evening of E9th”Tommy White & Lloyd Green2002
“Hot Licks & Cool TipsEducational video by Tommy White1999
Alan Jackson performance videoAllen Jackson2006
…and Numerous Videos of artists playing on the Grand Ole Opry
The Prince of Egypt, a Disney movie, released in the mid-‘90s.
The Apostle, a Robert Duvall film, released in the mid-‘90s.
From 1993 to 1999, Tommy taped TV shows 5 days a week for TNN. Such shows included background tracks for every commercial break play-in and play-out. He was also a featured performer on dozens of the show’s instrumental selections. This resulted in extensive exposure of the steel sound to the millions of the viewers who watched those shows. The following are the most significant shows Tommy is able to recall:
- Jerry Lewis Telethon 1970’s
- The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, NBC, 1976
- Phil Donohue Show, 1976
- Merv Griffin Show, 1977
- The Tommy Hunter Show, 1980’s
- Church Street Station, TNN, 1980’s, various shows
- On Stage, TNN, 1980’s, various shows
- Austin City Limits, PBS, 1988, 1989, 1990
- Trinity Broadcast Network (various shows), 1988-1989
- Nashville Now w/Ralph Emery, TNN, 80’s & 90’s, various shows
- New Country, TNN, 1986, 1987
- The 700 Club (The Whites, Glen Campbell & Ricky Skaggs) 1991
- Music City News Awards, TNN, 1996 (house band)
- Music City Tonight , TNN (house band), 1993-1996
- Prime Time Country, TNN (house band), 1996-1999
- CMT TV special with Joe Diffie at The Factory in Franklin, 1999
- Academy of Country Music Awards, 2001-current
- The Dottie Rambo Special, 2003
- 100 Greatest Duets, CMT, 2005
- The Grand Ole Opry Gospel Special, CMT, 2008
- Crook & Chase, RFDTV, 2008-current
The Grand Ole Opry, WSM, Nashville, TN (previously discussed) – [1986 to present time]
Classic Country, WSM, Nashville, TN [This is an existing weekly show which plays clips from past Opry performances]
Eddie Stubbs interview, WSM, Nashville TN. (2003]
Sho-Bud Showcase, WSM, Nashville, TN. 
“Tommy White, 100 Proof Steel, Aged 15 Years”, 1975
“Tommy White By Request”, Teresa White Productions, 2002
Tommy White “Hot Licks & Cool Tips” video, 1999 (Currently available on amazon.com).
“Tommy White By Request” 120 page tab booklet, 2002 (Currently available from itunes.com or directly from Tommy).
Lemon Tree Lounge w/ Mike Lunsford & Whiskey River – 1979-1983. , [Louisville, KY]
Doc Holidays w/ Peggy Jo & Buntline Special – 1983-1985, [Louisville, KY]
RADIO & TV COMMERCIALS
Kentucky Tourism Commercials, 1979-1986
Various McDonalds Commercials, 1986 to present
Various Budweiser Commercials, 2003 to present
NOTABLE PERFORMANCES & EVENTS
- Two week USO Persian Gulf Tour, 1991 (performing on the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower while under way, and at various US Military bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, and Egypt).
- The Steel Guitar Convention in St. Louis, beginning in 1971, when 12 years old, with approximately 10 additional appearances.
AWARDS & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
- In 1997, the Pedal Steel Guitar Association provided Tommy with an “Appreciation” Award at the International Steel Guitar Convention.
- In 1983, the County Commissioners of Jefferson County, Kentucky gave Tommy a “Certificate of Appreciation” for donating his time playing at community events.
- In 1986 Tommy was given an “Appreciation Award” from the ISGC Convention in St. Louis.
- A “Gold Record” award for his recording as a sideman on the Joe Nichols album, “Man With A Memory”. Tommy states, “This is the only ‘official’ award give to sidemen on an album, even though many of the albums Tommy has played on have achieved ‘Gold’ and ‘Platinum’ sales records.”
- Tommy was approached many years ago and consented to be an Advisory Board member of the Pedal Steel Guitar Association.
- Tommy was instrumental in helping with the design of the “TW” pickup for the George L Company. This “name-sake” pickup has been received well by buyers since 2002.
- Tommy was asked to approve a string design that launched the Jagwire String Company in 1994.
- If the following MySpace web site is examined, Tommy’s contributions to it become quite apparent.
PERFORMANCES WITH ARTISTS & GROUPS
For 23 years Tommy has worked for or in tandem with the Grand Ole Opry organization in one form or another. For the past 11 years, however, Tommy has been a member of the Opry radio and TV staff bands (previously referenced). Because of his tenure in all these venues, as well as many other television shows, live concerts, touring and numerous sundry gigs, he just may have backed more Country Music artists than any other steel guitarist in the instrument’s history. In that capacity, he has had to replicate the accompaniment styles, techniques and effects of those performing vocalists who previously recorded the songs performed. This is often an overlooked quality of a musician’s talent, and has surely contributed to his mainstay membership in the ever-changing Opry band. For this, he has received recognition and accolades from steel guitarists around the world. Those many listeners and observers expect to see and hear him on all Opry broadcasts and, frankly, any other televised Country Music broadcast.
Some artists may be missing from the following list of those he has accompanied on the hundreds of various performances as a backup player, but the list is still impressive if not staggering.
Alphabetical List of Artists and Groups Tommy has backed on the Opry, various TV Series and Award shows:
Rex Allen, Jr.
Jim Ed Brown
Billie Ray Cyrus
David Allan Coe
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Jumpin’ Bill Carlisle
Billy “Crash” Craddock
The Crabb Family
Little Jimmy Dickens
The Forester Sisters
Gregg Clinton Gregory
The Girls Next Door
Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers
Point of Grace
George Hamilton, V
Rebecca Lynn Howard
The Hagger Twins
Tom T. Hall
Carolyn Dawn Johnson
Pee Wee King
Jerry Lee Lewis
John D. Loudermilk
Hannah / McEuen
McBride & The Ride
Baker & Meyers
John Michael Montgomery
David Lee Murphy
Jo Dee Messina
Jimmy C. Newman
Diamond Rio Jewel
Robert Ellis Orrall
The Osborne Brothers
Oak Ridge Boys
Lee Roy Parnell
Karen Peck & New River
Jeannie C. Riley
Big & Rich
John Wesley Ryles
The Statler Brothers
Michael W. Smith
Jimmy Sturr Orchestra
Sweethearts of the Rodeo
Billy Joe Shaver
Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith
Leroy Van Dyke
Ricky Van Shelton
John & Audrey Wiggins
The Warren Brothers
Box Car Willie
Hank Williams, Jr.
Lee Ann Womack
With this comprehensive summary of Tommy’s body of work, I’ll not provide further grounds to support my contention that his accomplishments qualify him for induction into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
Randy Meeker sent us this insightful email. Enjoy …
“Another take on “Is Country Music Dead?”
Real Country music is alive and well, it just doesn’t get the attention¸ airplay, TV shows, Radio coverage that it used to. And probably rightly so. The music has changed, as have the instruments we each play have improved. I play pedal steel, lap steel, straight steel and dobro. I also have or do play guitar, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, some double bass, keyboards, and whatever else I can get my hands on.
I love country music, and Americana music, and bluegrass and folk and classic rock, blues and jazz. Does Pedal Steel fit into those genres? You betcha! – however, other instruments sometimes fit better. Music, by its nature, is ever evolving as the genres have to be to accept new submissions into their fold.
What may not have grown or changed is the music fan’s acceptance of those fundamentals. Sometimes as we mature, we focus in on what we like, what speaks to, what expresses how we are feeling down to a point of a single artist or a single group of like artists. Nothing else will satisfy these discriminating listeners. Cross-Over marketing is trying to blend the hype and crowd of aging Rock and Roll markets with the fundamentals of good country (songwriting, vocal mixes that you can hear the words) and penetrate the market of the baby boomers, gen X’ers and more as the demographic and purchasing trends are ever changing.
Add to this that the model of music distribution has completely changed, there are few Big Label promotion campaigns and now the world of Indie Songwriter, Singer, Performer targeting YouTube, iTunes, Reverb Nation and all the other media sources that are web based, there is shrinking need for physical media when so much of people’s musical content is streamed via on-line sources.
All these changes actually have changed the game in favor of country artists, no longer do you have to put up with the antics, shenanigans and shams of Music City. You can grab your computer and put down your own cuts, buy studio quality sidemen online, you can fly your music to a producer that can tweak and twist it around, mix it down and put together an amazing product without having to cough up a ton cash.
However¸ if you want the best, you will still have to travel to Nashville to get the A+ players, pay them triple scale, find a producer that can convince them to work on your project, and rent some very expensive state of the art studio time to get a product that sounds just like all the other songs being produced today. Some things do not change. There is just so much more available today.
Go for it, Life is short, Play Loud!
With warmer weather coming and everybody getting geared up to play the coming season, it’s time for a string and bar sale and we’ll make it good through the last day of March. Order a standard size Cobra Coil bar at the regular price and we’ll throw in 3 sets of Cobra Coil E9th Premium strings for free. It won’t show up in the shopping cart, but when we see an order, we’ll automatically include the 3 sets of Cobra Coil E9th Premium strings for free.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
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Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM