Bobbe answers more questions

Hello fellow players,

Everybody seems to really love me answering their questions. I guess that does make a lot more sense than me just rattling by myself. There are some questions I really like being asked. Yes I think some of them are silly, but no sillier than I probably am. So here we go.

The first question is how much do you feel tone is really in the hands? The answer is none of it is actually in your hands, but rather the way the hand picks the string, like where between the bar and the bridge, how hard and at what angle the pick releases the string. These things in relation to normal things that the string wants to do because of the way the guitar is constructed and so on, but actually the tone comes from several different things.

For instance, if you take a truly great tone player like Lloyd Green or Steve Hinson or even Buddy himself, put him behind a guitar that really doesn’t sound very good, the greatest hands in the world cannot save it. And if you take a pretty bad player in its first month or two of playing and put him behind an incredible guitar like an Emmons push pull, he’s still not going to sound even as well as Buddy with an MSA.

How much of tone is in the hands? Remember, none. It’s what you do with the hands but no matter how good you are, a good guitar will put you over the top. There are manufacturers of guitars that claim a lot of the tone is in the hands. They do this to blame you instead of their guitar that they sold you for the bad tone that it gets. If a manufacturer tells you that the tone of the steel guitar is in your hands, he’s just shifting the blame from the guitar to you. You are his excuse.

The second question is how much affect does your choice of pickups have on tone? The answer is not much, if by tone you mean timbre of the note. One can take a pickup off a horrible sounding guitar, put it on a great sounding guitar and it will have good tone.

The third question is did you take music lessons when you were a little kid? The answer is I took everything that wasn’t fastened down. I took lessons but not on steel guitar.

The fourth question is, Bobbe, you are very knowledgeable about a wide range of steel guitar styles, did you study other players. The answer is I have not studied other players, however I keep my ears open all the time, plus I analyze and think about everything I hear.

One of my first jobs in Nashville was working for a company that duplicated hits for the sound alike market, sort of a black market kind of company. I had to play the exact licks that were on hit records. This was really a wonderful learning experience. It taught me things I would have never learned otherwise.

Pete Drake was on about everything coming out of Nashville at that time, I had to learn to think like him and apply myself the way he did. It’s hard to believe but this was actually very good for me.

The fifth question is what amplifier did you use when you first came to Nashville? The answer is nobody had much choice in those days. Your only choice was Fender or Fender. I had a Fender Twin that I removed the front board and cut a single hole and mounted a 15″ JBL speaker in it.

This worked fine until I heard my first Peavey Deuce single fifteen transistor amplifier. The tone difference scared me pretty badly at first, but I loved the volume, weight and dependability much better than the Fender.

The sixth question is what was your next amp and what year? The answer is I was on tour with Bobby Goldsboro in Canada and the local music store there was contracted to furnish us with amps. They put the newly released Peavey Session 400 behind me for the show. I thought I would be disappointed because I was used to that beautiful Peavey Deuce that I had back in Nashville.

My disappointment was short lived. It didn’t take but a few seconds to realize that the new 1974 Session 400 was the killer of all time. Tone and power, size and weight was the best I had ever seen or heard. I stayed with the big Peaveys up until I got my first Peavey Nashville 112. It has been my main amp ever since. I have a big collection of amplifiers that I like, but nothing has the weight, tone and dependability of the Peavey brand.

When the Fenders were gone, so were my tube problems and distortion. Everything that was wrong with my sound was fixed when I went to the Peavey.

Other amps I have are a Standel tube amp, a ’65 Standel transistor amp, a Webb amp (a very good amp), a couple of Sho-Bud amps that I love the tone of, but they are so old now that I’m afraid dependability might be a problem.

The seventh question is what do you remember most about your early days with Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys? The answer is I remember the big lush sound and the great arrangements of the band with its great dynamics between the strings and the horns. I loved the band. Nothing else was too good on it though.

The eighth question is did you play on any of the Ray Price hit records for Columbia? The answer is I did not do any of the Columbia sessions.

The ninth question is did you do your famous violin effect when you were working with Ray Price? The answer is no. We had lots of real strings to do that. However, when we did the Cherokee Cowboys album of which I played ninety percent of the lead on, I also played several string parts with the violins that Cam Mullins had written originally.

I asked many of you last week to vote for what kind of an album you wanted to hear me do next. Ninety percent of the replied were voting for a nice big Gospel album on E9th, a couple voted for big chord C6th jazz and one for big fat slow E9th country. I’m still open for ideas so don’t be afraid to let me know. It sure is wonderful to know what you all want and appreciate the most out of me.

We have not had any Emmons tee shirts to sell for a long time, however we do have a totally new design that I think you’ll love so click this link and take a look.

Ron Bailey sent me the schedule for the Heartland Steel Guitar Festival in Kansas City.

Steel guitar is America’s gift to the world. Steel guitar and fiddle are the instruments that make country what it is.

Check out our monthly specials at and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.

The friend to all bar holders,
Bobbe Seymour

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