What's not to love about a steel guitar?
The title says it all. Over on the bgrass-l the debate rages....and yet I stand back, arms across my chest, rotating my head slowly from left to right and back again, a semi-irritated sneer of disgust marring my normally placid (ha!) expression. What's not to love about a steel guitar? I guess I have to ask that again and again and jump into any subsequent debates.
Mind, I have no idea how to play one. But the same way I love a dobro - or a resophonic guitar, if you must - in that bluegrass music I sure do dig those pedal steel guitars.
Heck, back when I lived in Nashville (1986-2001) Friday or Saturday nights would often find me backstage at the Opry presumably to snap candids of the bluegrass notables (and a few country ones) there, but I was really there hoping to hear some of those good (if not regular) jams in the dressing rooms. There were a few. Maybe one of the most memorable things I ever saw in one of those dressing rooms was Little Jimmy Dickens in his big boots, big hat....and underwear. I kid you not. I'm kind of short and I was so absorbed in this jam going on in his room - one which included a bunch of folks and I remember Eddie Stubbs on the fiddle - and there were loads of people crammed in there and I was in the back inside corner sort of pasted against a wall with my big Nikon, just listening and loving the old style country music that was happening in there....and maybe I was lost in some reverie, but all of a sudden I found myself looking up at Little Jimmy who was stood over by his clothes rack....in his skivvies, boots and hat. Lady that I am, I quickly averted my eyes for a long, long time though surely my face looked like some big red ball. Before my eyes turned, though, I noticed that I was the ONLY female still in the room, and being vertically challenged, I reckoned Little Jimmy, who seems like quite the petite gentleman whenever I've been around him, must not have seen me there behind the towering men. Pretty funny. Whenever I see Jimmy that moment flashes through my mind.
But I was talking about steel guitar and I'm thinking about various steel players I've known and enjoyed down through the years and many more I've not known but simply loved listening to. I sure did get to meet Kayton Roberts (probably misspelled that!) who played great steel table for Hank Snow those many years - what a character. Think I actually met him at a party over at Terry Eldredge's at one of his post-IBMA parties, but maybe it was one time backstage at the Opry when I snapped some silly photos of him with folks like David Crow. The memory fails.
And Weldon Myrick. The early years I went to the Opry how I'd rush to the stage to hear him play a break. What a sound! The pedal (or lap) steel in the right, tasteful hands is a powerful - and sexy - tool, you know.
It's perhaps funny that I arrived at this post from a childhood of screaming and sticking my head out the window during those long road trips (105 miles on little roads) to Grandma's house (a proper farm in upstate NY, not far from Lake Ontario) as my mom and dad in the front seat of the Impala sang vastly off key to the likes of George Jones, Haggard, and Loretta. One day when I was about 24 I woke up and LOVED country music, the proper honky-tonkin', cheatin', hating-your-day-job, wife don't understand you kind of heartbreak music. Nothing like that and a cold pint to make you feel real happy about your own life.
That love has never changed - and neither has the power of the steel, that metal bar sliding up and down and over and back those strings, pulling at my heart. That's country. I hope for a long time to come.