Hello fellow players,
I want to talk today about a steel guitar player that everybody’s heard of, but you really don’t hear much about anymore. This is a real shame because he was the king of steel guitar recording in Nashville, Tennessee from 1961 – 1985. You really can’t name a major artist that Pete Drake has not recorded with. This is no exaggeration. Some of his first major recordings that went to number one were with artists like Roy Drusky, Lynn Anderson and even one Patsy Cline session.
Pete gained tremendous following in the sixties when a couple of the hot players in Nashville left town and Pete jumped in immediately working his great political skill and by 1965 he was by far the hardest working steel guitarist in Nashville.
I remember him telling me that he had cots that he left setup in all the big recording studios in Nashville, along with a steel guitar in each one of the major studios. Until Lloyd Green came on the scene in ’65 and Weldon Myrick and Hal Rugg started working the Opry and studios, Pete had free reign.
Pete’s style was actually a very unique C6th style and his signature lick was raising the 2, 3 and 4 strings with the floor pedals instead of the typical E9th things that everybody else was doing. Pete also in the following decade produced several artists that made him pretty well known within the music business. Artists like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Ernest Tubb, Dolly Parton and so on.
I remember doing a session for Bob Milsap, a new writer in Nashville. He asked me to play the Pete Drake style on a song he was pitching to Stoney Edwards called She’s My Rock. I did and when I finished the session and left the studio, I told Pete what they had asked me to do. He laughed and said, “Well I bet when they record the master, they’ll call me.”
I laughed and said, “I hope not.” But sure enough, two months later I got a phone call from Pete saying that he just did a Stoney Edwards session and one of the songs was She’s My Rock. He said I played his style lick absolutely perfectly on the turn around, however where I started the lick on the third beat, he just couldn’t get it and he wanted to start the lick on the first beat of the measure because that’s the way it felt to him.
I said, “So what did you do?”
He said, “I told them to call you next time for the demo and the master.”
I laughed and thanked him. Pete had a very successful studio right across from 18th Avenue South from my studio. His was called Pete’s Place. Mine was called Seymour Sound until I decided the recording business was not for me.
Pete was born in Augusta, Georgia in 1932 and died in July 1988 of complications from emphysema. Pete always did smoke like a chimney in my opinion. His death followed his brother’s death, the very famous Jack Drake that spent 24 years playing bass with the Ernest Tubb road crew. He was one of the famous and great Texas Troubadours.
Pete confided in me that he had decided to learn to play steel guitar after hearing Bud Isaacs recording with Webb Pierce on the song “Slowly”. Another thing he was famous for was recording vocal songs with a steel guitar talking device. “Forever” went to number one on the country charts. Most steel players didn’t like these antics or tricks and many players would put Pete down for things he did to be famous and sell records.
I remember the time when a very famous hot country jazz steel guitarist was doing a session for Pete in one of Pete’s studios. All the musicians were gathered around this terrifically hot famous steel guitarist and he proceeded to play some gargantuous lick that made everybody say wow and everyone was truly astounded. He looked up at Pete Drake who was setting up the microphones for the instruments in the studio and he yelled at Pete, “Hey Pete. Can you make a noise like that?”
Everybody laughed until Pete reached in his pocket, pulled out a great big roll of hundred dollar bills, ran his thumb across the rolled up ends making a whirring noise and looked at the show off steel player and said, “Can you make a noise like that?”
It was hard to find Pete when he didn’t have a very large roll of hundred dollar bills in his pocket or a new Cadillac in front of his studio. One thing those that knew him will always appreciate about him is his friendly personality, look you right in the eye and give you a hearty handshake. He always remembered everybody’s name and the last time he saw them and what they were talking about.
Truly one of the great legends of the golden era, Pete did many things to help other steel guitarists in town, like hiring me to play on sessions he produced for Columbia. David Rogers was one of the artists. I was proud to be on his sessions before David died.
It was a little unearthing that Pete had a studio employee that helped musicians in and out with their equipment named Paul Franklin Jr. It felt strange having Paul carry my equipment in and out knowing the great quality player that Paul was. However, Paul’s attitude was incredible and surely that helped him to be one of the great studio musicians himself in later years. We all have a lot to thank Pete Drake for.
Take a look at our restoration page on the website and then read on. www.steelguitar.net/restoration.html
These Fender steel guitars are going up in value every year. Many of them nowadays have pickups that have gone bad and tuning keys that are stripped. We are doing restorations on these guitars and installing new tuning keys, pickup coils and replating all the chrome steel parts, refinishing the wood to the color of your choice and installing new fretboards.
These guitars restored look better than they did new and if needed we can even include new legs. This is not inexpensive to restore these guitars, however you will be much money ahead if you restore them as opposed to throwing them away. These are wonderful little non-pedal guitars and should be treated with the respect they deserve.
The dual Professional or the triple Professional, along with all the Stringmasters are totally worth restoring. We are here to do it. Give us a call if we can help you.
Check out our monthly specials at http://www.steelguitar.net/monthlyspecials.html and we’ll try to save you a lot of money.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday