Hello fellow players,
I’ve had tremendous response concerning my newsletter about the origins, history and development of the E9th tuning. Of course, as you must know, this has opened the door to doing the same thing about the C6th tuning. Where did it come from? Who were the pioneers and why is it the way it is?
In the beginning before pedals the C6th setup was by far the most popular tuning on any steel guitar. About any song could be played on it from hard country through all the standards and pure jazz. Naturally it was impossible to play a good four or five note complex chord and have all the notes in tune. So if you wanted to play Moonlight In Vermont with three to five note harmony, you had to have some pedals that changed at least a couple of the strings.
This was absolutely the most perfect tuning to play all the standard big tunes of yesteryear, but just like the E9th tuning, you have three basic pedals that you have to have and the rest are all incidental pedals. This setup makes so much sense that there isn’t but one to do it. So to say who invented it is a non important academic approach to basic music.
Those of us that grew up on non-pedal C6th have known from day one what strings needed to be raised or lowered to get the most necessary basic chords that are needed in almost every song. When I first saw the great steel guitar player Bob Meadows, his Bigsby guitar was setup with just three pedals on the C6th neck. Each pedal only moved one string, however he played Stardust, Dancing In The Dark, Tenderly and every other good standard in big chords, no trouble at all.
Just think about it. Three pedals on a C6th tuning and the world of chords was his. The tuning is small to large gauges was E, C, A, G, E, C, A, F, with F of course being the bass string. One pedal lowered his second string, two other pedals lowered the fourth and fifth strings. This was definitely the way to get about every complex chord you need to play about any complex tune.
Other players over the years ended up raising strings three and four instead of lowering the second string, but everybody still today lowers the other ones the way it was done in the beginning. I traveled from coast to coast and every area claimed that they invented the pedal setup on the C6th.
However, the great Dallas players seemed to be really getting the most out of it. Tom Morrell, Billy Braddy, Maurice Anderson were playing all the great tunes with this original C6th setup with no knee levers. Some things just musically have to be, like the keyboard on the piano. It just doesn’t make sense to be laid out any other way. The standard C6th setup for a steel guitar makes no sense to be setup any other way.
However, most players have embellished this setup. It might be nice for our own particular style. If you want to know what a standard C6th setup is today, it is on my website at www.steelguitar.net/tuningd10.html
There is no mistaking the fact that a double ten steel guitar covers the musical spectrum about as well as it can be covered as long as you stay pretty close to the standard setups. Answering the question where did the steel guitar tunings come from on the C6th neck, the answer is it came from about everywhere at once. Nobody can lay claim to the perfect way to do it because musically there isn’t but one good standard way of doing it, just like the layout of the piano, to say it again.
Let’s talk about steel guitars that have been made famous by their owners. Many players that are very well known have had their steel guitars for many years and some players go from guitar to guitar so often that they just don’t make the guitar any special history. Like Jimmy Day has been well known for playing his original little double eight Sho-Bud painted blue and his name written on the front.
The guitar was in natural finish for a long time and is now owned by Lynn Owsley, although it’s in pretty bad condition. Jimmy’s last guitar that he was making very famous is a double neck ten string Mullen, blue and sounded very great.
About any guitar that Buddy Emmons played got famous overnight so I’ll just name a few from the time I met Buddy in 1955. Triple neck eight string Bigsby, double neck eight string Sho-Bud, then he had a double nine Sho-Bud that was natural with white necks. Then he got a double ten Sho-Bud, also a permanent, maple front and necks with a gun-metal gray top.
Then Buddy started playing a wide selection of Emmons steel guitars because of his involvement with the company. Today Buddy still has a push pull Emmons and a LeGrande and no telling what else is sitting around the house that cannot be called a main guitar.
Lloyd Green started in Nashville with Faron Young playing a triple neck Bigsby with one pedal that belonged to Faron Young. When Lloyd left Faron he bought a double neck Bigsby from Shot Jackson. Then his next guitar was a black permanent with a heart inlaid on the front. Then he got his sunburst green and natural double ten that he did the famous Charley Pride album on.
Then of course, he had David Jackson build him a double ten cross-over Sho-Bud but complained of it being way too heavy. He loved the guitar so he took it back to David and said, “I never play the C6th neck so take it off. Do not disturb the E9th neck.” David did it.
This guitar had the aluminum frame of the cross-over Baldwin and was painted green. It did not have the LDG logo on the front as Lloyd’s middle name is Lamar. The next steel guitar was custom built from the ground up for Lloyd by David Jackson. It had a full wood body, wood neck, a twenty four and a half inch scale with a shorter keyhead. This is the guitar that Lloyd is playing today and was built in 1973. It is called the LDG and is extremely well known and famous. Lloyd has been on many hit records on this guitar and has really bonded with it over the years.
As you see, it takes continual abuse and exposure for a star players guitar to become famous. Bud Isaacs Bigsby, PeeWee Whitewing and Bob White’s Bigsbys, Joaquin Murphy’s Bigsby and Speedy West’s Bigsby, their reputations were being built along with their owners.
Anything you guys want to know more about will be covered. Let me know and we’ll do it.
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