Hello fellow players,
As I promised, the Hall of Fame steel player that I’m going to talk about this week is the great Jimmy Crawford. Jimmy was by far one of my favorite steel guitar players because his steel guitar playing knew no rules. When you heard him do something, it was original and unlike anything you’ve heard before.
He could play steel guitar like a ten string banjo, if a banjo had ten strings. His rolling style with pedals and knee levers was very fascinating. The more you knew about steel guitar, the more you were fascinated. Jimmy could have done a hundred times more with his playing and gone many times farther if he had not been side-tracked with so many other steel guitar interests.
I remember it was almost Christmas in 1954 when I was living in Jamestown, New York and snow was about three feet deep drifting to nine. My uncle came into my grandmother’s house where I was staying and said I’m going to go see Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper since they are playing at the Palace Theater in downtown Jamestown about 17 miles from the home farm.
He said, “They’re supposed to have a good Dobro player named Josh Graves.”
I wasn’t very interested in Dobro at the time, however I knew I would enjoy the music so I said, “Let me go.”
He said, “I’ll let you go if you can get a date.”
So I sort of liked the girl that lived across the street from my grandmother named Sue Burns, so I asked her and she said “Absolutely.”
So we left early because of the horrible condition the roads were in and when we got to downtown Jamestown, there was a record shop right beside the theater, so we went in to see if we could find anything interesting and there it was, that famous album of Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant.
I was totally mesmerized by the picture on the front of the album. Speedy with his triple neck Bigsby and Jimmy with his Telecaster. I said, “Uncle Doug, buy this album even if it’s just for the picture.”
So Uncle Doug bought it and a little while later we wandered next door to the theater. Even with the theater full of people, I could hear the steel guitar tuning up backstage. I said, “Oh-oh, we may have a steel guitar surprise on our hands.”
Well, the band started, the curtain went up and a steel guitar surprise it was. Seventeen year old Jimmy Crawford and the band wearing charcoal shirts and brilliant pink dress pants and playing the best music I’d ever heard. I’m sure it would stand up great to any country band playing since or today.
By the way the date, she was wonderful and we got home with no snow problems. I remembered every second of this evening twenty years later when I myself took a job with Wilma Lee and Stoney. There I was onstage with my double neck Emmons remembering that terrific night in 1954.
Jimmy was quite a craftsman with his hands and built the JCH guitar during the last days of his life. I do question Jimmy’s business practices and so do many other people, however he had a very nice personality and regardless of who he ended up owing money, I’m sure this matters very little to them today.
As I stated, the quality of his steel guitar was very good. He believed in chrome plating everything that was steel and highly polishing everything that was cast aluminum. His measurements were exact and if he couldn’t get something machined, he’d buy a machine to do it himself.
The last several years of his life he did not play out publicly much, but he did do some touring with Vince Gill and some of the higher paying road jobs. His personality was such that everyone that worked with him got along well with him and would brag about the experience.
I myself at Steel Guitar Nashville did a lot of business with him ordering materials with him to get a larger discount from manufacturers and anything else that we could do to enhance both our businesses.
When Jimmy died, he really left a hole in my business and a vacant spot that we all had here for our love for him. Else, his wonderful wife and several wonderful daughters round out Jimmy’s great family.
I met Jimmy in 1954 when he was working for Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper. He was playing a triple neck Fender and stood up and played with a trio backing up this fine little singing show. I was fourteen and a half at that time and was totally awestruck by his ability.
He played everything that I’d ever heard Jerry Byrd do including Jerry’s fastest instrumentals. He made me realize that an eight string neck with just rhythm guitar and bass could be one heck of an incredible band. His sense of humor was beyond compare. I’d like to say he was one of my dearest friends that I have lost recently.
Christmas is almost upon us so let us know if we can do anything to make your life a little happier so check out our Christmas specials at … www.steelguitar.net/christmasbundles.html.
Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Closed Saturday and Sunday