The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” movie; Tommy White

October 29, 2012

Bob Hempker here. Here’s part of an email Bobbe got from Tommy White last week that he wanted to share on the newsletter.

Hi Bobbe,

Hope you’re doing well my dear ol’ friend. I’ve had a very busy year playing the Grand ole Opry, touring with Vince Gill, TV and a few records. Just finished Willie Nelson’s new record and was fortunate to play on Jamey Johnsons latest record which was released today, and it’s country, featuring me on every cut. Jamey’s record is a tribute to the great Hank Cochran. Really all great songs with tons of pedal steel guitar!

I’m writing to say thank you for your youtube video on how and why to use the Boss RV-5 reverb pedal. The video was so helpful to me. I’ve had the Boss RV-5 purchased from you years ago and now I’m finally getting to use it! That’s all I got for now.

Again, thank you!

Always my best,
Tommy White

Bobbe wanted to publicly thank Tommy for the plug and Bobbe honestly has the utmost respect for Tommy and treasures their friendship. Of course, Bobbe is not alone in his respect for Tommy. Tommy is one of the most respected, admired and loved steel players in all of the world of steel guitar.

I can’t remember the first time I ever met Tommy. I know he was a kid, maybe fifteen or sixteen years old and his playing and talent got the attention of all the musicians who heard him.

When I worked the road for Roy Clark and Loretta Lynn and we would play the Grand Ole Opry, Tommy was so nice and hospitable to the players of the guest artists doing the Opry. I never got a chance to thank you Tommy but sincerely want to thank you for being so gracious and helpful.

I have just about worn my copy of Tommy’s CD “By Request” out. He should stand as an inspiration to every steel player. If you’re not paying attention to Tommy White, you need to.

I’ve been asked what the most exciting event in my career was and I can say that being part of the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” if it’s not the biggest highlight, it’s real close. Sissy Spacek went out on the road with us several times and performed on stage with Loretta. She went on the Opry with us too. She was just a sweetheart to be around.

The entire cast was just super top notch people and were great to all of us and I’m not using great as a cliché but using it in the truest sense of its meaning. We had a wonderful rapport with Tommy Lee Jones and Levon Helm who played Loretta’s dad. Unfortunately we lost Levon a short few months ago. He was a heck of a talent.

It was interesting to watch Tommy Lee Jones getting a handle on playing the part of Loretta’s husband Mooney. He didn’t look a lot like Mooney, but he stood back and watched Mooney and learned to copy the way he walked, talked and most of his mannerisms. Tommy Lee did such a good job that you can get a sense of what Mooney was like by watching the movie.

Beverly D’Angelo did an extraordinary job playing Patsy Cline and she proved to be a classy lady through and through.

The closest place they could find that looked like Butcher Holler was Wise, Virginia. They had to use an alternate location because they couldn’t get the filming equipment up the mountain.

In case any of you were wondering, Loretta’s road band performed the sound track for the movie. None of us knew how big the movie would be. It won Best Picture and Sissy won Best Actress at the Oscars that year. Not to sound like a cliché but it was more than a thrill to be a part of this.

We went to four or five different sites to record different parts of the movie.

Another highlight of my career was the honor of getting to play in Washington, D.C. for Presidents Nixon, Carter and George H. W. Bush. We did just about every big network television show that was going back at that time. Doing the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson several times really sticks out in my mind. Johnny Carson still is the real host of the Tonight Show as far as I’m concerned.

Being a steel guitar player on the road with a name artist is not boring. Looking back I feel I spent the best years of my life back then. In the future I will try and share some of my memories and experiences with you.

I can look at the young steel guitar players who are on the road today with name artists and have an idea of what they’re experiencing. Being a professional steel guitar player has been a wonderful and rewarding life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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