The Popularity of the Pedal Steel Guitar

Hello fans and fellow players,

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter.

With all the talk lately of bringing our instrument to the forefront and the different ways to do it, I’d like to throw my two cents in. There’s been talk of a new type of steel show which is a good idea for starters, however I think we’re missing the real problem which I believe is that the artists themselves are not featuring steel guitar as much as they used to.

In the seventies when steel guitar was strong, you heard steel guitar featured in solos and on stage they were recognized. For example, Charlie Pride and Lloyd Green, Conway Twitty and John Hughey etc. Regardless of what kind of music steel players want to play on the steel, if your kids and grand-kids are listening to alternative rock, jazz, pop, etc. unless steel guitar is featured in that music, chances are they’re not going to be interested in steel guitar.

For example, my son is twenty years old and I’ve played steel around him since he was born. He plays guitar very well and drums, but he has no interest in pedal steel guitar because pedal steel isn’t part of the music he listens to. Not to say he doesn’t have respect for the pedal steel guitar as an instrument, but I think if the steel guitar would have been used in some form in the music he listens to, he would’ve probably added steel to his arsenal.

Even if there was a steel show where they were playing rock or jazz music and I took him to the show, he could appreciate it, but I don’t think that would intrigue him enough to start playing it. However, if one of his guitar heroes ended up playing steel on the music he does listen to, I think he’d become very excited about picking up the steel guitar.

Let’s face it, radio itself is our biggest vehicle to move the steel guitar forward. Until other genres and Nashville start utilizing the steel more, then it’s going to be an uphill climb.

We sold a steel guitar to Steve Miller, but I bet many of his fans probably don’t know that he plays steel guitar or that he’s even interested in it. As a start, I would say that even in local bands, if singers would focus a little on steel guitar and feature it and give it as much credit as they do the guitar players and drummers, that would be a good start.

A lot of people don’t even know you have to use both hands, both feet and both knees to play pedal steel. The singer needs to explain that to the audience, not to embarrass the steel player, but to help the instrument by making people aware of it. They need to make the steel guitar more than just a little icing on the cake and bring it back to the forefront.

On the upside, there are younger players here in Nashville that are playing the instrument. Tyler Hall, Eddie Dunlap, Kyle Everson who all currently have artists jobs so not all hope is lost. We still have several newcomers coming into the store. I had a fourteen year old in here today who purchased a Nashville 112 so there are young players interested in the instrument.

Think about this. Before Bob Wills incorporated steel guitar and fiddles in a big band, many probably thought that those instruments wouldn’t fit in a big band situation, but after it was done, nobody doubted it. So until an artist of today incorporates steel guitar in their music, no matter what genre, steel guitar’s role will probably be pretty much unchanged.

The other way steel guitar could return to prominence would be if someone came up with another “Sleepwalk”. So get busy writing a new totally unforgettable instrumental and you might be the one to single-handedly bring steel guitar back to prominence. However, this is a very long shot.

Check out our monthly specials at www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

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