Hello fans and fellow players,
Something I realized when I was walking into my associates office to do this newsletter was what a good value a reconditioned Sho-Bud can be. Good tone, good parts can still be found, beauty like no other, legendary acceptance by the world’s biggest players and the price is as low as I’ve ever seen it at the moment.
The bad thing about buying one sight unseen is they do have a habit of wearing out in serious places. That’s why we try real hard on the ones we sell to go through them all thoroughly and make sure there will be no surprises. Good guitars for very little money, but just be careful if you don’t buy from a reputable dealer.
As a matter of fact, I’ll let this be a segue into our Hall of Fame player this week. One of the most gargantuous players ever, the mighty Curly Chalker. Curly was born October 22, 1931 in the deep south, a town named Enterprise, Alabama. He died April 30, 1998 at 66 years of age.
Curly could play any style of steel guitar from Cousin Jody humor steel up to incredible jazz. He made a living his entire life playing steel guitar. I know one time when he was working a club in Kansas City, Missouri where he worked in a gas station just to fill up his daytime hours and he learned a lot about automobiles through this job.
His favorite car was his 1953 Cadillac Fleetwood which he kept immaculate. Naturally, it was black and not because it sounded better.
Since there is so much out there printed on Curly Chalker, I’ll just stay with personal dealings and stories I’ve had with this monster player. Curly could be one of the most arrogant, sarcastic, insulting, mean talking individuals in the world. Most people knew when to stay totally away from him.
I have been bitten by him a few times and when in Nashville and we were both competing for the same work, I found he could be a horribly aggressive competitor, then turn around and be the greatest friend one could ever have.
But I had so much respect for him and love for his style that I was always very careful what I said and did when around him. I’ll never forget one time he was playing a club in Printer’s Alley here in Nashville, I snuck in the club and sat in the far back and was mesmerized all night with his tremendous playing.
He was working a trio, just himself, bass and drums and backing up some of Nashville’s greatest singers. At the end of the night I just had to walk up to the stage and say something to him. So I sauntered up and said, “Great job Curly. I really enjoyed it.”
He said, “Well, I guess you should. You’ve been sitting there all night afraid to let me know you were in here.” This scared me somewhat. I didn’t know anything else to say so I left.
After Curly’s stroke and he moved to Las Vegas, a prominent steel guitar player went to Vegas to see him and asked Curly how he was doing. Curly said, “Great, but I haven’t been able to play in the last couple of years.”
This person asked Curly if he had tried to play, to which Curly said, “Yeah. I got some help from my wife. She pulled my steel out of the closet, she set it up and helped me up into the chair and I tuned it.”
Then after a pause, this steel player asked Curly how he played after being off it so long. Curly replied, “Well, I played my butt off of course.” I thought, “Yeah, that’s a typical Curly Chalker answer all right.” However, I’m sure he did.
Curly’s stint as a studio musician in Nashville was not that well accepted like it should have been. He was extremely inventive, could not be stumped on anything that he did, however he was just plain not a country steel guitar player, nor did he want to be. Everytime I saw him, he’d complain about producers and hillbilly music and how much he missed the west.
However, he did do a good long stint on HeeHaw. This was between Tom Brumley and Russ Hicks. I thought Curly did exceptionally well when he was working with Hank Thompson in the early fifties. Also as a staff steel player on the Ozark Jubilee TV series back with Red Foley and Porter Waggoner.
The first time I saw Curly was at Ardmore Air Force Base in Gene Autry, Oklahoma. I was a little bit late getting back onto the base one evening, but noticed the big 29 passenger Flxible bus at the NCO club on my right.
I walked in and there was a western swing band setting up in full uniform and I noticed the steel player was playing a new, for the time, Fender 1000 steel guitar and running the wires to his twin Fender Bassman setup. I thought, “This is going to be a horrible sound.”
Still not knowing who he was yet, I went over and asked the skinny guy with the fringe and the cowboy hat who the steel player was going to be this evening. He said, “I am.” Then he stuck his hand out to shake hands with me and said, “I’m the great Curly Chalker.”
I said, “I’ve heard of you. I hear you’re fast like Joaquin Murphy.”
He replied, “If I slowed way down and didn’t play as many great chords, I could sound just like Joaquin.” I immediately realized I had made a mistake. About this time he sat down to tune up and it sounded like all the bugles in Heaven coming out of those eight 10″ speakers. What an incredible sound.
The first song the band did together was a big jazz band tune named Summit Ridge Drive, then a hardcore country song called There Stands The Glass, which reminded me of the first time I saw Buddy Emmons play, but this had much more impact. I couldn’t see or think for a week, but I will admit that he totally changed the direction of my life.
I hope you all that are reading this newsletter have had such mind altering musical experiences. I don’t know of anybody that has heard him in the early days that doesn’t remember him with the same reverence.
By the way, Curly and I ended up the greatest of friends in Nashville. I feel that anybody that knew this incredible player well understands where I’m coming from. One of the main reasons I’m writing this newsletter today is because of the way I feel about this guy.
Go to google and type in his name and you’ll get a tremendous amount of information. The reason I’m doing this is to give you a close personal insight and not just stock facts. I miss Curly greatly.
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