Is Country Music Dead?

This is Bob Hempker. We received this email from Chris Smith and I’m impressed by how eloquently he expressed the frustration so many of us feel. Chris, I wish I had the answers to your questions, but I don’t. We do have a lot of industry people on our mailing list and just maybe some of your concerns might fall on the proper ears and I will certainly pass on any feedback I receive.

Here is Chris’ email.

Bobbe,

I am extremely concerned about country music. Is there any way to talk to the record companies and let them know there is a market they are completely missing out on? I turn on the country station today and it’s unbelievable what they have done with country music. I’m hearing a heavy influence of rock and hip-hop with a twangy voice. It’s only a matter of time before they pursue artists that don’t have any twang in their voice and they allow them to do whatever they want and play it on country radio. I am afraid that country music has died. One can listen to the old country music but there is only so much of it to go around. Eventually, you can purchase all that has been made that is qualified to be called country music. Unfortunately, it has become almost impossible to hear a new track that has pedal steel in it that has a instrumental worth listening to. There has to be something that can be done about this. I’m 34 years old and the music I love the most seems to have come to a halt. I know it’s not something new and it has been eroding over time. At least over the last decade and a half. It’s like the year 2000 hit and someone in Nashville said “ok, time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on killing country music.” Jason Aldean is supposed to be the answer for me? Come on. Give me a break. I’m not saying his music is bad by any means but it does not appeal to me. I am educated enough to realize there is a market out there for his music. Why can’t the record labels be educated enough to realize that they are completely missing out on a market that craves new country with tons of pedal steel and fiddle? Most of what I hear today is what I call the background noise you might hear if you went to a club. It’s fine for some settings but when I get in my car or sit in the living room alone at the house, I want to hear something with substance. I want excellent arrangements, addictive melodies and vocals that cannot be duplicated by anyone that can halfway carry a note.

I am terrified that in the future, there really won’t be anything out there that sounds like it could be country music. I fear that singers in the future will say that their influences were Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan or Hunter Hayes. To this day, I have not heard one track from any of those artists that comes close to sounding like traditional country.

I am planning to go to the final George Strait concert in June this year in Arlington, TX. I have joked that I am going to the funeral of country music and that I should wear all black. It’s the truth, though. Once Mr. Strait stops cutting new albums, it is over. I am aware that there will still be local bands spread throughout the country that will still be playing country music and perhaps selling it. I am also aware that I can search through the internet until my fingers are stiff to find it. However, I remember a time not that long ago I could hear real country music on the radio. Even better, I could buy those albums back then and really hear something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, the only new country albums I have bought over the last 4 years have been George Strait albums.

It’s truly sad that the music I love the most has almost died. It’s like a fish out of water. They even have me questioning myself. Am I too old fashioned? Should I be more open-minded? Should I give these modern country artists more of a chance? The answer is NO. I should not have to settle for something I don’t really like. If only I could have a shot at recording albums and having them played on the radio to satisfy the people out there like me. Of course I know that Clay Walker said it best recently. This is not an exact quote but he basically said that anyone who thinks that traditional country will be produced or played on the radio today is kidding themselves.

Where are the singers that were influenced 20 years ago by George Strait, Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence and Tracy Byrd to name a few? I can understand today’s young artists not being influenced by George Jones or Ray Price but the artists from the 90’s had to have had an impact on younger singers today. What happened along the way? Who is in control of this? Is it radio, the labels, a lack of good talent or a mixture of all of it? Does country music need someone’s presence like Gaylord or Roy Acuff in order to remain traditional? It has to involve greed too. They are in business to sell records but I have a news flash for them. They are not selling any of them to me or people like me. I guarantee you that Darius Rucker could not sing a real country song if he had to.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have some answers for me. I’ve been trying to hear someone answer these questions logically. No one has been able to say anything that makes any sense about this except for comparing it to old rock n’ roll. That was killed off just like country music is being killed today. Surely hip hop and rap did not win over the masses.

Sincerely,

Chris Smith

www.steelguitar.net
info@steelguitar.net
www.youtube.com/bobbeseymour

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

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Live Steel Music in Nashville

Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter.

I’d like to start with a congrats to Bob Hempker for getting the call to go back to work for Loretta Lynn. Bob plays very well and sure needs to be playing more so congrats Bob!

We often get caught up discussing a select few steel players that “blazed the trail” and that is fine and well deserved, however I would like to talk today about some of the players here in Nashville that are keeping the torch lit every week. I would like to recognize some of those players and say thanks for your passion and loyalty to the genre and instrument we all love!

Let’s start with Rusty Danmeyer. What a player! He works the road with Leann Rimes but you can hear him most every Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Music City Bar and Grill wearing out some traditional country music the way it’s supposed to be played with a great band equally suited for the task, including Eddie Lange on bass. The Music City Bar and Grill is at 2416 Music Valley Dr, Nashville, Tennessee 37214 in the Opryland area where the new Opry House is located.

This brings me to our next player, Eddie Lange. He is not only one of the busiest players in town but one of my favorites. You can catch up with Eddie every Monday night 10PM-2AM and Saturday 2PM-6PM at Robert’s Western World churning out some very nice swing and traditional country with parts played with fiddle, steel and lead guitar. Eddie plays bass with Georgette Jones and played steel for Bill Anderson. Awesome! Robert’s Western World is at 416 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Next up, Mike “Cookie Monster” Jones he can be spotted at numerous places around town with his signature style. Mike is an “all around” great player and a super nice guy, well worth the effort to listen to every Wednesday night 6PM-10PM at Legends Corner. Cookie is best known for his work with Barbara Mandrell. Legends Corner is at 428 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

And of course you can see the great Randy Beavers from Leann Womack’s band on some Saturdays 6PM-10PM at Swingin’ Doors Saloon, and as usual playin’ his butt off! The Swingin’ Doors Saloon is at 111 4th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37201. It’s just off the corner of 4th and Broadway.

Next up my friend Jay Andrews playing that great sounding Push Pull! IMO Jay has the And of course we can’t leave out the great Mike Sweeney. What else can I say,? Mike is one of the most well rounded players and teachers out there! Mike played steel for Wesley Dennis.best tone on Broadway hands down! You can hear him every Saturday afternoon 2PM-6PM at The Wheel playing some great country music! Jay is known for his work with Johnny Paycheck and Joe Nichols. The Wheel is at 421 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

And of course we can’t leave out the great Mike Sweeney. What else can I say,? Mike is one of the most well rounded players and teachers out there! Mike played steel for Wesley Dennis.

You can see and hear another great player and teacher Doug Jernigan on most Mondays 4PM-8PM at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. Doug has recorded with Con Hunley, Lorrie Morgan, Charlie Walker, David Frizzell, Keith Whitley and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to name a few. You won’t be disappointed! Layla’s Bluegrass Inn is at 418 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Then there is J.R. Merseal playing his Push Pull. J.R. is one of the most creative and entertaining players playing Saturdays at The Second Fiddle 11AM-2PM, then moving across the street to the Full Moon Saloon for a 2PM-6PM shift and he is always worth listening to! The Second Fiddle is at 420 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. The Full Moon Saloon is at 423 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Two of my favorite younger steel players Eddie Dunlap with Clay Walker’s band and Tyler Hall who currently plays for Joe Nichols, can be spotted from time to time playing around town.

Let’s not forget about Tommy Hannum, a very creative and well rounded player, you can see him with John England and The Western Swingers at Robert’s Western World every Monday evening. You know Tommy from his recordings with Steve Earle, Jack Ingram, David Allen Coe, Ricky Van Shelton, Mary Chapin Carpenter and on and on. They also play at The Nashville Palace at 2611 McGavock Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37214. Check The Nashville Palace website (www.nashvillepalace.net) for times.

Then of course, yours truly can be seen every Tuesday 6PM-10PM at The Nashville Palace. Saturday 11AM-2PM at The Stage which is at 412 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. Saturday 6PM-10PM at The Wheel at 421 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. And then again Sunday 6PM-10PM at The Wheel rounds out my weekend. Regular readers will have picked up on my work with Joe Diffee and Tracy Byrd.

I’ve included the addresses so anyone visiting with a smart phone can link directly to Google Maps and easily find these locations.

I apologize if I’ve left anyone out!

So you see steel guitar is not fading away thanks to these fine players keeping the torch lit week after week, please try and see and support these guys the next time you visit Nashville. They’ll make your trip worthwhile.

Vic Lawson

www.steelguitar.net
info@steelguitar.net
www.youtube.com/bobbeseymour

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

Posted in Bobbe's Tips | 2 Comments

Pedal Spacing

Here is the best reply I had to the last newsletter.

Bobbe,

Speaking of the “newer generation” not knowing who the “pathmakers” were reminds me of a story I heard in Nashville a few years ago. I can’t remember the person who told me the story, or the singer involved, but it really hits the old nail on the head. Here ’tis:

It seems that pretty little Miss So and So was doing an album and needed one more song to finish it up. Her A&R man suggested she do a Patsy Cline song because they were a good cover. The gal answered, “Oh, she sings? I thought she just came out on stage at the Opry in a funny hat and told jokes.”

When I heard that, I knew country music was in for a big letdown. The funny thing is that when all of the “ignorant wannabes” are forgotten, and they are hustling sandwiches at Subway, and their records are in the fifty cents bin at the Salvation Army store or at garage sales, Patsy Cline recordings will still be selling on the racks with the latest hit makers . Just like Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, even Elvis.

I dug up another newsletter I wrote years ago and never got around to sending. Here it is.

The pedal board on a steel guitar. Do you realize how many different spacings, pedal travel and pedal shapes there are from guitar to guitar? When you say a pedal feels good, does this mean you want one to push real easy or have enough resistance that you can get half pedal without running the pedal into the floor?

There are many different types of pedal feels and of course, pedal shapes. If a pedal is rounded off from the top to the end, the ratio actually changes as your foot pushes it down and walks along the top of it. This might be okay if you get used to it, but after playing a guitar with a flat pedal on top like Franklin or Fessenden, it could be pretty confusing.

The first Emmons LeGrande and actually second and third LeGrandes, I took the pedals off and replaced them with the old style cast push pull pedals. I like the feel much better even though the tension from all the way up to all the way down was identical. Upon seeing Buddy Emmons first LeGrande, I see that he did the same thing.

I personally don’t like the LeGrande pedals because of the sharp edge on top that prevents a player from sliding his foot across the top of the pedal. The old Emmons pedals, you could do this quite easily. The good thing about this is if you have a belt sander, it’s very easy to cut this sharp edge off the tops of the pedals.

The Sho-Bud pedals do not have this trouble. I like the newer Sho-Bud pedals that are thin from the shank to the end of the pedal because it gives you more space between the pedals without the pedals being further apart. However, the very wide spacing like on the early Sho-Bud Pro IIIs, these new pedals give you almost too much space between the pedals. But let me say this out loud.

All these pedal sizes and pedal feels I’m talking about really must be sized and adjusted to the player. The person that likes one may hate another. I remember Tom Morrell and I building some of the first MSAs and Tommy himself built a steel guitar with only two inches of space between them. This was horribly narrow for me and I just couldn’t play it. But he wanted it that way and played it very well.

I like two and three quarter spacing or even more if the pedals are wide. I just put the pedal setup on my new Clinesmith and because of the width of the pedal, I went to three and a quarter inch spacing. This would be too much on a Sho-Bud or Emmons, but it’s just perfect for Bigsby or Clinesmith.

Remember here, Clinesmith and Bigsby pedals, like the first Sho-Bud pedals, are built with a very wide pad on the end so they require either thinning them down with a band saw, which I have done, or add more space between pedals overall.

Most steel guitars today that are on my floor here are a good blend of width and spacing, for instance, the new Mullen guitars. It’s obvious that these guitars are being designed and built by a very good player, Mr. Del Mullen himself. These guitars are extremely comfortable to sit down behind and play well the first time you try.

Just remember that any pedals that’s too easy to push is not going to give you the control that you need of the note changing from one pitch to another. Also, the rate of string change will determine the pedal feel. The harder you push the pedal the farther a note goes? This is not good. The pedal should push with about the same tension all the way to the stop. As you push the pedal, it should get progressively easier, not progressively harder.

You may notice if you’ve ever played an Emmons push pull, the farther the pedal goes down, the easier it is to push. This ratio of pressure can be adjusted on all guitars. However, it may take a different bell crank, or different parts to accomplish this. The Emmons LeGrande guitars are also very good about incorporating this feature.

I have seen several homemade guitars in my lifetime and guitars like the Sho-Bud Fingertip that have progressively harder push the farther you push the pedal. Not bad if you get use to it and can control it possibly, but not for me.

The Sho-Bud Permanent, built from ’57 to ’65 is fine, but the Fingertip made form ’64 to ’68, unless adjusted very precisely, does not have what I call good pedal action. However, this Fingertip model was a brilliant design and the great granddaddy of the all pull guitars of today.

Bobbe Seymour

www.steelguitar.net
info@steelguitar.net
www.youtube.com/bobbeseymour

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

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