Hello fellow players,
I started a couple weeks ago doing the history of some of the players of steel guitar. One interesting player in Nashville that has left us now was the great Hal Rugg. Hal was a very competitive steel player in Nashville and was always on a quest to have a better guitar, which included searching high and low, finding something great and trying to improve on it.
The Sho-Bud company located at 416 Broadway in downtown Nashville with satellite factories on the north and south side of town were great places for Hal to experiment. He was the right person to do this kind of experimenting because he worked the Opry as a staff player and did many recording sessions throughout the week.
Hal and David Jackson, who was the main driving force behind this company, were in close cahoots and shared many ideas on some very interesting approaches to building steel guitars.
About the time that many of the players were switching over to Emmons guitars, Hal thought that there was no reason to do this if the right model Sho-Bud could be designed and built. So he and David decided to build some experimental guitars that similar building processes that the Emmons company was using, one of which was the aluminum neck, something that Sho-Bud had never done up until this time.
The first guitar that was built by and for Hal to try to accomplish this feat was a brown double ten with eight pedals and four knee levers. I remember hanging around the factory when this guitar was going together. I made the comment to David that I was sure he could find some nicer looking formica to put on the guitar than that ridiculous brown simulated birdseye that he had.
David’s reply was, “We’re not building this guitar to look good. We’re building it to be a better sounding guitar and we’re just experimenting with brown mica and aluminum necks. The next time I saw this guitar, I was playing the Opry with Billy Walker and Hal had the guitar there and was using it with acts that he was backing up. It sounded wonderful on the Opry, but Hal took a lot of verbal abuse because of the strange looking brown mica on the guitar.
So he went back to David at Sho-Bud and said, “Let’s build one just like it but put some beautiful black shiny mica on it instead of the brown.” Six months later it was done. Hal played the black one for awhile and claimed to really love it, but ended up going back to the brown one and using it until many people started ordering identical guitars from Sho-Bud.
At this time, David Jackson called Hal and told him to bring the guitars back to the store because too many people were asking for steel guitars like this but the factory wasn’t building them.
Besides, David had an idea for a revolutionary new guitar that had a changer at both ends of the guitar. The guitar raised at the right end by the pickup and lowered strings from the other end which was normally the keyhead end. Hal and myself went into the factory to check this unit out. Hal took it straight to the Opry and played it several times before David called him and told him he’d built a couple more and wanted Hal to try them out.
David ended up building six keyless guitars in all, but none of them were ever actually sold to any customers outside of Nashville. A few years later I ended up buying the two double neck Sho-Buds and all six keyless guitars when I was in my Goodlettsville store. I bought these along with many other experimental guitars that David was working on at the time.
I bought barrels of parts, tons of birdseye maple and many truckloads of parts and added this bevy of parts and guitars to stock in my Goodlettsville store. It was ten years before I had most of these sold off. I remember Johnny Cox buying one of the best keyless guitars that David had built and I actually converted a couple of them back to models that had keyheads and tuning keys.
I sold the famous brown double neck guitar to a gentleman in Nashville named Pete Harris. He was rather old and retired and really didn’t play much. He sold it to a guy named Larry Johnson. Larry was just a student guitar player and left it in a building that he had rented and lost it when he didn’t pay the rent on the building. I ended up buying the guitar back from his landlord.
I sold the guitar to a recording company here in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Then it was sold to a preacher in South Dakota and as luck would have it, he traded this guitar back in to me for the much nicer looking black guitar that Hal Rugg had second.
I have talked with David Jackson and we have decided to totally restore the brown one to better than new specifications, cosmetically anyway. Hal Rugg went back to using a sixties model permanent setup double ten sandalwood brown Permanent guitar on a lot of the video clips that you can see now on YouTube.
These two guitars with the mica and aluminum necks turned out to be the forerunner of the Sho-Bud Pro III model. Later they were scaled down in dimension and they were turned into what is now called the Super Pro. So as you can see, Hal Rugg played about anything that Sho-Bud was building on an experimental basis.
Hal had a little to do with how David built these guitars, but David Jackson that was the president of Sho-Bud was actually the father of all these models. He built them all himself with a little help from Hal, Duane Marrs and the production staff at Sho-Bud at the time.
The story of all these experimental guitars is pretty well unknown to the masses and is the stuff of many rumors over the years. Many people that think they know a lot about what went on, don’t even have a clue. Every once in awhile I’ll see a statement on Ebay or the Steel Guitar Forum where someone will post Sho-Bud never did anything like that. Well I’m here to tell you, David Jackson at Sho-Bud did almost everything. Many great ideas sprung from the fertile mind of this young genius and Hal was right there to prove or disprove the validity of many of these designs.
It’s unbelievable what great guitars were designed fifty years ago and graced the stage of the Grand Ole Opry under the hands of Hal Rugg, Buddy Emmons, Shot Jackson, Ron Elliott, myself and many others. In the very beginning when Sho-Bud started, players like Howard White, Porter Wagoner’s steel player Don Warden, Buddy Emmons, Hal Rugg and Pete Drake, Ben Keith, Jimmy Crawford and Weldon Myrick, these guys were the crusaders for Sho-Bud in the very beginning and the stage at the Grand Ole Opry was the proving grounds for many of the early Sho-Buds.
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