Hello fellow players,
I am getting many questions and have gotten many over the past few years that I have not answered. This will be the intent to take care of many question that I’ve had over the years.
The first question is, “What kind of picks do you use?” The answer is I use a Peavey thumbpick and no fingerpicks.
The second question is, “When you were first learning, did you learn towards imitation or innovation?” The answer is imitation mostly because the little bands I wanted to work with were playing things that were on the radio and I thought sounding just like the record would impress them.
The third question is, “Did other steel guitar players teach you things?” The answer is not really because even in the beginning I could hear things one time and pretty well figure it out. However I was not above talking to any other player and picking up anything that he would tell me which had to do with tunings, pedal placement and anything that would push me forward.
The fourth question is, “Did you ever learn to read music?” The answer is yes, but I’ve pretty well forgotten it since my early days. I learned to play piano at a young age and then taught some in my father’s music school in Norfolk, Virginia. I also pretty well knew the number system thanks to dad, by the time I got to Nashville. This made my first few sessions a lot easier.
The fifth question is, “When you use vibrato do you slide the bar or roll the bar?” The answer is a little bit of both probably.
The sixth question is, “Do you anchor your right hand when you’re playing?” The answer is yes, up to a point. I don’t let my right hand wander around to the point that I don’t know which strings are under my fingers at any certain time.
The seventh question is, “Do you do anything special to protect your hands?” The answer is yes, I do now, but this is after two horrific table saw accidents that have pretty well butchered my left hand to the point of being pretty useless. I also have a Triumph motorcycle that I put a two-speed Honda-matic transmission on which makes it very easy to drive, but I still don’t do that much.
The eighth question is, “Do you still fly?” The answer is yes, however the space between flights is getting larger.
The ninth question is, “Could you describe the extent of your personal guitar collection?” The answer is I have five Bigsby double and triple necks, pedal and non-pedal. I have three Seymour guitars that were built and sold in the mid-sixties, all of which need restoring at the moment. My main workhorse is still a double ten push pull ’71 Emmons with 7/7, but I really love my little GFI that is light, trouble-free, sounds fine and is totally maintenance free. I have a Clinesmith double ten with 7/4. I also have a smathering of Fender non-pedal steels that I love to play western swing on. Remember, it don’t mean a thing if you don’t play western swing!
The tenth question is, “Do you keep your guitars unmodified?” The answer is yes, pretty well, however most of them are tweeked somewhere because of something that the builder didn’t do and should have.
The eleventh question is, “What’s your preference of material that the guitar should be made of?” The answer is highly figured maple because it’s the best tone wood that’s possible to obtain and nothing is really prettier.
The twelfth question is, “Are there players you admire?” The answer is yes, however fewer and fewer as time goes by, but those that I do admire are definitely worthy of my praise. A few of the new players scare me to death, however a lot of old great players that I used to admire deeply don’t really do so anymore as I get older and realize that they were wonderful for their time, but their time is over. Wow, did I say that? Now this is happening to me ha-ha.
The thirteenth question is, “Over the years many people have said they have noticed humor in your playing. Is there humor in your playing?” The answer is yes, very definitely. Playing steel guitar is a method of communication between minds, just like in my talking and saying things that I’m not really serious about at times, I’ll play things I’m not serious about. Every once in awhile, I will very blatantly steal a Pete Drake lick lifted directly from a Tammy Wynette tune and possibly insert it in a jazz tune or something similar.
Inside I’ll be screaming with laughter and will notice other players laughing along with me, however with the majority of the audience, it will go right over their head. I’ve heard many players do this, Gene O’Neal being one that leaps to my mind the most often.
The fourteenth question is, “On your albums, are they mixed to sound good in car CD players through the speaker?” The answer is my earliest albums many years ago were, but the sound system in cars, the quality they are today, I don’t feel this is really necessary. However, doubling the rhythm guitar tracks, adding tick tack and doubling the violin section is always a tasteful trick.
The fifteenth question is, “What are your plans for the future?” The answer is this is a very good question that I’m anxious to answer. I read somewhere the other day the statement that was coined by one of the great players of this time and he stated “It’s up to the older players to teach the younger players.” I thought this was brilliant and I go along with it a hundred percent.
Answering any question about my playing I feel is my obligation, it is my duty to all to share what I’ve learned and stolen from others over the years. There is a time to give back and I’m in it. My teaching videos, my CDs, interviews like this and anything I can do to help anyone be what they want to be, I’m just the guy that’ll do it. I’m not saying that I have the correct answers for everything. As a for instance, I think everybody should wear picks even though I don’t.
The sixteenth question is, “Do lead guitar players influence you in any way?” The answer is some of them influence me very deeply. Other ones don’t influence me at all. Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Thom Bresh, Louie Shelton, Leo Kottke and many others have influenced me beyond belief. Jazz players like Johnny Smith and Tal Farlow have always been great influences on my playing.
The seventeenth question is, “Anyone that really sticks out?” The answer is wow, all those I’ve named plus Hank Garland, Thumbs Carlisle, Lenny Breau and I’m sure others, but then again, there are also some I’d rather not even see again like most of the rockabilly players. Just kidding, I’ve been influenced by them too.
The eighteenth question is, “Who are your favorite rock bands?” The answer is I like all of the Detroit Motown music. Cream, Clapton, Mark Knopfler, ZZ Top, Kool and the Gang and the James Brown Band because of his great commercial arrangements. It was probably the guy that did the demos on his songs that did the great arrangements.
The nineteenth question is, “Musically, how much were you influenced by jazz and bebop?” The answer is I was influenced greatly and still am by both. However, where do I get to apply it with the state of music where it is today?
The twentieth question is, “Who were some of your great jazz influences?” The answer is Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker, The MIL Combo, the Buddy Rich Band and the Johnny Smith Trio to name just a tiny amount.
Next week I’ll answer questions I’ve had about my amplifiers and gear. If you have any questions you want answered next week, send me an email.
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Steel Guitar Nashville
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Hendersonville, TN. 37075
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