I received a phone call from steel guitarist Paul Wade from Las Vegas. I’ve known Paul since the late sixties but have not kept in very good touch. It’s wonderful to hear from old friends even though I haven’t heard from them in a long time. I remember several very good players from Las Vegas. Counting the ones that were just working the strip for a month or so, I’ve always had several great friends to visit when I came through town with a Nashville or Texas band.
I hadn’t heard from Paul in many years and was surprised to hear that he had left Vegas and moved to Fresno, California.
Also, steel players that I’ve met while coming through their towns with bands that I have either been helping out or working steady with from Nashville. I never forget a friend steel guitarist that I have met years ago on the road. I might forget where I left my keys five minutes ago, but I remember every steel player, most of which I think very much of.
Remember, I am retaining my remembrances of you like you do me.
I was working a live radio show with Tracy Lawrence in Russellville, Kentucky the night that he was signed by Atlantic Records. It seems like he is a standard now and has turned into one of the big boys. Tracy was very nice to work with and I would not hesitate to recommend anyone working with him.
Another new tidbit. I have not heard of The Jones Boys, George Jones’ band lately and don’t know if they have disbanded or if they are staying together to be some other stars band. Any good word on this, I would appreciate it. I was not in the store yesterday when the newest steel player from the Jones Boys came by. I would like to hear what the status was of this nice country group.
Hearing from western swinger Herb Steiner from west Texas, he was thanking me for mentioning the fiddle players Leon Boulanger, Johnny Gimble and Jimmy Belkin and he mentioned Bob Wommack, a wonderful trumpet player. I’d also like to say since Herb mentioned it, Johnny Gimble is not doing very well lately. This is bad news for all the players in Austin, Nashville and Dallas who enjoyed his wit and music on the bandstand and off.
I remember walking into a studio for a 10 o’clock session one morning at the Shelby Singleton studio on Belmont and Johnny looking at me and giving me a big smile. He put his hand out and said, “You’re a sore sight for eyes.” He had many witty things he was always coming up with along with many quick, on the spot arrangements.
I was a member of The Southernaires Western Swing Band at the Southern Club in Lawton, Oklahoma for a good while in the late ’50s and early ’60s on and off. I met many great western swing musicians during this stint. I just found out that Herb Steiner also was a member of this group along with Chuck Caldwell on steel.
Chuck Caldwell played a double neck Gibson non-pedal with a straight pick and played fast like Curly Chalker and Joaquin Murphey. He also used a flat bar as I remember.
I had worked with the group when it had as many as 12 players at one time which means we were a pretty full sounding band. I didn’t work with a group this large again until I went to work with Ray Price the last time in 1987.
Ron Middlebrook from Center Stream Publishing is doing a book on the old tube type Standels. His web address is www.centerstream-usa.com. This should be an interesting book when it’s finished and be very similar to that wonderful Bigsby book that was put out a few years ago.
A friend of mine Mike Dunn from Kingsport, Tennessee asked a question I think all of you would enjoy hearing the answer to. Here is the email I got from Mike.
Thanks for expounding on the subject of stage presence. I suppose it falls somewhere neatly between being a fool and looking like the guy on stage playing solitaire on a very pretty table. I had another question that I thought might be of interest to many who don’t frequent studios. What are your thoughts regarding using a direct box and local rack or pedal effects (delay, reverb, etc.), versus using a mic on an amp in the studio? Since tone is a function of all parts of your rig, including the amp, it seems to make sense that this may be the way to get your “true” sound. However, amps, and some effects pedals are inherently noisy, and may be problematic for the engineer. What do most of the big studios expect: dry, with no effects from a direct box; the “finished” sound, including your effects and amp? There just seems to be any number of ways that this could be configured, but there must be a tried and true way. Thanks for all you do for steel guitar- and us players!
The recording engineers in Nashville generally like to have the tone as dry as possible, in other words, don’t like to have a steel player using any effects. This I feel is a shame since I have a way that I build my own tone and it involves my own effects or system of doing so.
I feel some of the greatest engineers let the steel player build his own tone and records it the way it is, but there are some engineers that prefer to just have a dry tone and do it their own way. I’m almost never satisfied with what they come up with.
I did a master session with Stan Hitchcock one day for a major label. I’d just gotten my new steel guitar. I set it up and was getting just exactly the sound I wanted, a stereo tone with delay on one side and dry on the other. Together on playback, they sounded wonderful, but a year or so later when the album came out, the sound was pretty bad.
I called the engineer and asked him what he’d done to my tone and he said he didn’t remember and asked me if I had sent him a stereo signal. I said yes I did. He said, “Well we needed another track for the backup vocals and noticed you had a wet and a dry line coming out from your guitar so I just took one of them.” He took my stereo line for the backup vocals and left me with just a mono line.
Then once we leave the studio, we are always at the mercy of the engineer. From that point on, I always gave him a signal as simple as possible so that they wouldn’t mess it up.
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