Hello fellow players,
Here is a question that Peter Benjamins sent to me and my answer.
I appreciate every newsletter as it gives me a feel of what playing the steel guitar was like during the 50’s and 60’s, as well as what is happening today.
When you mention a recording or album, could you tell us the name so we can listen to it for our education? We may all have differing opinions about what sounds good and it would help to know what was considered good and obtainable back then.
For example, on most older recordings the steel guitars sounded warmer, this is clearly evident when you compare the sound of the steel guitar on some of Buck Owens tunes to those on Dwight Yoakam’s “Dwight Sings Buck” CD, where the steel guitar sounds cold and harsh.
The reason for this is steel guitars of yesteryear sounded fuller, plus the actual recording studios themselves with their vacuum tube consoles, sounded much fresher than the digital boards that are being used today.
I remember how great steel guitars used to sound on the Grand Ole Opry. Generally I feel the warmth of the old steel guitar played through the old tube amps and recorded on magnetic tape as opposed to everything being digital, adds a lot of what people are missing on records today.
The tone on the Grand Ole Opry was obtained by plugging directly into an old gray Echoplex, then going into a 1955 Standel amplifier, then to a little control board on the side of the stage and then to WSM 50,000 Watt clear channel, then of course to your radios, which were vacuum tube.
Yes, no wonder it sounded different. There was a magic sweet full warmth about that sound in the old days, something we have trouble reproducing today. However, and this is a big however, you cannot get this tone simply by going out and buying a tube type amplifier to play through. It just won’t do it like that.
No telling how many vacuum tubes the sound went through before you actually heard it in the old days. It seems that a good transistor amplifier today will give you a much cleaner tone and more power than a decent tube amp would yesteryear, plus maintenance is many times better than a tube amplifier. But fun is fun and searching for that elusive tone can be a very interesting hunt if you do it correctly.
I recall the tone Bud Isaacs always got with his beautiful Bigsby steel guitar, so I asked him one day what kind of amp he used. He said, “Hardly ever the same one twice. Just whatever my cord will reach and plug into.” Of course, this was early fifties so everything I’ve said so far applies.
Now I have some news for all you steel guitar lovers and fans. A GFI price increase is coming. It will be up about 14%. These guitars are a make that we sell hundreds of each year, however even at 14% more, these guitars are still one of the greatest values in new guitars available anywhere today.
Everybody is complaining today that steel guitars are too expensive and weight too much. You don’t have these disadvantages with the GFI steel guitar. When you think about the great professionals that have played these guitars for years, you’ll know you can’t go wrong. Players like Buddy Charlton, Ralph Mooney, Mike Fried with Gary Allen and Norm Hamlet with Merle Haggard. These great players all played GFI for the obvious reasons.
The fact that they are light and so easy to work on are two of the biggest plusses along with great parts availability and factory support just a phone call away6. Call me quick before the price goes up.
Our friend Fred Jack and his daughter Dottie Jack came by to visit last week. They were escaping the fires in Austin, however two of Fred’s daughters did lose their houses to this devastating calamity. My heart goes out to everyone of you Texas players that went through this ordeal.
Whenever these tragedies hit us anywhere in the world, we all need to look out for each other as much as possible. Most of all, take care of those puppies and kitties, those innocent little souls only have us to look out for them. And of course the farm stock, horses and cows, hogs and so on who reside in the fields around your farms, deserve the same attention.
One of the reasons that I have a large showroom full of great steel guitars and many different kinds of amplifiers is so you can make your own decision on what you think sounds great and what you think doesn’t. So please come by and see me anytime you can.
Check out our monthly specials at 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