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Author Topic:  Steel, is it getting pushed out???
Johnny Cox


From:
Lives in Nashville, Missin Texas
Post Posted 15 Feb 2017 5:42 pm     Reply with quote

That's the question of the day for me. I see more and more country bands not using steel now. Of the bands that claim to be country here in Nashville a very small percentage of them have a steel player. Some still do but nowhere near the number of years past. The touring acts are the same. Many of the bands that do have steel really have utility players that just play a few songs on steel. Most of those guys play guitar, banjo or other instruments.Two of the shows I played in Branson last year will have no steel this year. This is very concerning to me. Will it come back? If it does will we every have the caliber of steel players we are so used to? I'm not playing much at all. I'm working a day job which is ok for me. My concern is the future of the instrument.
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Mitch Ellis


From:
Collins, Mississippi USA
Post Posted 15 Feb 2017 6:35 pm     Re: Steel, is it getting pushed out??? Reply with quote

[quote="Johnny Cox" Will it come back?

Nope. Not like it once was.

Mitch
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Daniel McKee


From:
Corinth Mississippi
Post Posted 15 Feb 2017 7:55 pm     Reply with quote

I don't think it will ever be what it once was, which is kind of a sad thought. In my area which is Northern Mississippi there are a few just really small bands that want a steel player and at the same time they want that person to double as a bass player or guitarist. I think as you said being a utility player is what everyone wants rather than a full time steel player. I hope all that changes and there is a increase in steel guitars being used in modern music.
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Tony Dingus


From:
Kingsport, Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 15 Feb 2017 9:27 pm     Reply with quote

This makes my 3rd semester at ETSU in NE Tennessee teaching steel guitar. I only have 2 students and one of them graduates at the end of this semester. The school is more known for their bluegrass musicians but, they're trying to get traditional country going and we went from 3 bands last semester to 6 bands now. I'm playing 3 bands and Henry my senior student plays in the other 3. This might not sound big but, it's starting to pick up. Hopefully we can help spark traditional country. There's some awesome singers there too. Keep your fingers crossed for us. I wish you the best Johnny. You're an awesome musician and I love your playing.

Tony
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Malcolm McMaster


From:
Beith Ayrshire Scotland
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 1:17 am     Reply with quote

Johhny, same here in U.K., recently saw a "Country extravaganza " advertised, looked at the line up only to discover that there was only one "band " on it that I knew - a two piece who are to Country what I am to Ballet dancing, the rest were second rate singer songwriter folky or pop orientated acts, not a single steel , banjo, fiddle to be seen.I questioned the term Country in the advert and promoter came back saying that this was Original material artists and , more or less said they were much better than "Cover Bands" on the circuit.I pointed out that I played in several bands who had over the years did their own original traditional/ honytonk/ Americana material, and that one had been signed by a US label, and produced by a well known American Producer ( not that necessarily made us any good). I do play with a couple of acts that do folky / jazzy/ even traditional Scottish music, and enjoy the challenge, so I am not a "Country Snob", and appreciate all music.The Nashville pop / rock thing has a lot to answer for, thank god for the Likes of the Timejumpers , 45RPM, Amber Digby.Always look forward to hearing music and playing at Dallas.
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Paul King


From:
Gainesville, Texas, USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 2:21 am     Reply with quote

I heard Johnny Russell say one time "We have enjoyed the Golden Years of Country Music". Unfortunately it appears steel guitar has too. All we can do is hope and pray it makes a comeback.
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 3:30 am     Reply with quote

Music and Nashville Music seems to go in cycles. Its happened before with Chet and the new Nashville Pop music scene that went through a phase. Now its rock being sold as country music. It will probably never be the same as it once (or twice) was but we can only hold out hope that the steel will make a comeback.

Over the years the steel has always been the "odd man out". If a band had to cut a player it was always the steel that got cut. I've talked to a lot of bands that "wished we had a steel guitar" but pay wasn't enough to hire one.
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Bill Ferguson


From:
Norcross, GA USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 5:13 am     Reply with quote

I see some GREAT young steel players everywhere I go. I am amazed at their abilities.
They are playing stuff that I could never even dream of playing.
That being said, I don't think the instrument will die, rather just become a personal pleasure for our music rooms.

I will say, that if there was ever a time in history that I would be put on this earth, I am glad it was during the era of REAL country music and the steel guitar greats.

And that includes YOU, Johnny Cox.
Love ya pal
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Roy Heap


From:
United Kingdom
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 5:51 am     Reply with quote

Like Malcolm said we have plenty of steel players here in the UK but the bands don't and sadly they don't seem to want them. A country band in particular who don't have steel is in my mind just a pop type band sadly. Full marks to Malcolm and others who are prepared to seat in with other styles of music and enjoy as well as keeping our instrument alive.
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Bob Carlucci


From:
Candor, New York, USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 5:59 am     Reply with quote

Steel guitar is an afterthought these days. You have to seek it out in popular music, kind of "go underground" and seek alt country, or more local type of acts.. Good luck if you want to hear it on the radio.

People like it and smile when they hear it, mostly musicians, but thats where it ends.. Not that many care to go much further with it.. A country band LOVES a steel.... as long as the guy can sing and play 2 or 3 other instruments, otherwise, they'll do without..

Up here , out of Binghamton NY, there's a new station, that bills itself "classic country" on AM... The oldest song I have heard so far is Rowdy Friends by Hank Jr.. Its all stuff from the late 80's 90's up until maybe 2005.
So here is a "classic country" station that has pretty much NO classic country the way we steel players of classic country. More steel than a modern country station, but still its practically non existent as a major contributor... Its been 30 years since pedal steel was a force .. Its still there, but its just a taste, not near enough for those that love it...
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Dustin Rigsby


From:
Parts Unknown, Ohio
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 6:05 am     Reply with quote

Well, the traditional country ship has sailed for now. It may come back to port some day. I'd say it's for the steel guitarist to figure out where they fit in to the musical landscape. Bands don't do 6 nighters any more either,but there are still plenty of bands doing gigs. I'd say the days of the steel guitar specialist are probably over, unless you're with a top tier artist. Most groups need multi-instrumentalists. Most of the steel men I know play another instrument as well. Keyboards, guitar, mandolin,and banjer are a plus.
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Dick Wood


From:
Springtown Texas, USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 6:32 am     Reply with quote

There used to be a steel in almost every band around D/FW but these days,walk into 15 of the busiest bars and you might run across two maybe three on a good night.

The best years have come and gone.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 6:53 am     Reply with quote

Rant as follows:

Sure the music business isn't crazy about us...that's a no-brainer. And I'll agree that the instrument is in a declining state, but a good portion of that is our own fault. We tend to be a narrow-minded lot. We like to play only certain styles, and get only a certain sound or tone. We've also continually resisted the standardization of the instrument (we always want something different and more in a setup), and we're always adding pedals & levers, which just adds to the complexity and cost of the instrument, and steepens the learning curve - thus making it harder to play.

In case you haven't noticed, the mantra these days is "make everything stupid-simple and easy". You don't have to go to the store to shop. Telephones no longer have dials, cars don't require you to stick a key in to open or start them, and radios no longer have buttons. Some people don't even have to get their ass dressed and go to work, they work from home. (How the hell did that get started?) There are no carburetors to adjust, no antennas to rotate on your roof, and no turntables you have to stack records on, and you don't even have to leave your house to go running or biking. The list of things making everybody lazier is endless. At the same time, we (collectively, as steelplayers) have done everything but simplify. We're fixated on technicalities and mechanicals, on all sorts of complex moving tones and fancy chords. Yet, arguably, the music today including the steelplaying, really isn't any better than it was 50 years ago. Imagination is gone. Personality and identity is gone. One-hundred and twenty-eight tracks of "bland", anyone???

So yeah, it's true that today's long-haired, young-assed producers aren't very interested in making our instrument more visible and popular. But apparently, most of us aren't, either. Oh Well
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Herb Steiner


From:
Spicewood TX 78669
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:08 am     Reply with quote

When I was a kid (born in 1947), the accordion was the instrument everyone wanted to learn, thanks to guys like Dick Contino and others. The western swing bands I'd listen to during that time,... like Spade Cooley, the Sons of the Pioneers, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tex Williams... who were cowboys on TV playing music to my infantile ears, all had accordions.

Where's the accordion nowadays? In first place is the gentleman in the Time Jumpers. There is no second, third or fourth place.

Steel players, take heed.

PS: Johnny, hope you're doing well, son. We miss you here in TX. Smile
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David Spires


From:
Nashville, TN USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:16 am     Reply with quote

I don't know, Johnny, and I understand your sentiment, but - I don't think that the greats on our instrument were ever really challenged by, or made better by their road gigs. They became who they are and were by seeking it on the outside (other genres, jams, practice).

As for touring life these days, Utility is really needed at every position in the band. Guys like Brent Rader took it to a new level (keys, drums, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, harmony vocals), and since recordings feature 20+ tracks per song, 4/5/6/7 piece bands have to do what they can to replicate it. This year, I'll play Pedal Steel, Lap Steel (overdriven slide), Dobro, Electric Guitar, and Acoustic Guitar, and everyone but our drummer switches to different instruments through the night. I think utility players used to "get by", and now there is some reward for doing it all at a high level.

Mostly random ramblings,

David Spires
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Sam Marshall


From:
Chandler, AZ USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:18 am     Reply with quote

I personally feel that steel is in a bit of a resurgence, but not in the traditional country form.

It is surprising how much steel I am hearing on Sirius XM's "The Loft", which is definitely not a country format channel. "The Loft" has a very good track record on predicting "Indie" trends, which provides me with hope. One of the DJ's on there actually seems a little obsessed with the steel.

By no means is the style of steel as complex as you would hear at a steel convention. The pedal steel styles I hear on "The Loft" are quite similar to what we heard in '70's country rock.

I have several musician friends in their 20's & 30's that are quite interested in the instrument. In general, the price tag for even a used steel is tough sell, so they do not move forward with it. If we want the steel to prosper again, we may have to sell our used steels for $500 to $1000.

Best Regards,
Sam
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Mike Neer


From:
NJ
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:19 am     Reply with quote

Gotta roll your own.

I'm a latecomer to steel guitar and when I was coming up as a musician, I didn't even know what steel guitar was. But I have devoted my entire musical existence to the instrument (non-pedal) because I believe in it and I have things I want to say with it.

I feel bad for those who are having a hard time finding work, but there are a bunch of guys I know who are making it happen because they have wide-ranging musical interests and the schmoozing chops to make it happen.
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Dick Wood


From:
Springtown Texas, USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:34 am     Reply with quote

Well I was kinda giddy about playing at a neat club in the Ft. Worth Stockyards tomorrow night but after reading Donny's post, I think I'll stay home,lay on the coach,heat up something in a pouch from Walmart and watch TV.
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Roger Rettig


From:
An Englishman in Naples, FL
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:39 am     Reply with quote

For the majority of players who are part-timers their chances of employment are surely governed by what is selling and/or being played on the radio.

If we had - by some miracle - a string of popular recordings that featured a prominent steel-part then that would inevitably trickle down to the grass-roots level and the weekend warriors here might find themselves in demand again.

That's the problem - most are just followers, and if Nashville producers are ignoring the steel guitar then that effect will be felt everywhere.

But I can recall similar concerns being voiced in the '70s when a cross-over style began to predominate in the record scene. Then Randy Travis and Ricky Skaggs came along and reset the switch all over again.

You never know - it may happen again.
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Henry Matthews


From:
Texarkana, Ark USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 7:45 am     Reply with quote

I listen to Willie's Road house all time and if you listen, steel wasn't that dominant in that music. Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Billy Walker and I could go on and on, didn't use steel in most of their recordings. On way to Little Rock last month, I counted 21 songs before one had a steel in it. I was shocked. I even heard Pick Me Up On Your way Down with no steel.
Bands don't usually hire a steel because of the money but what beats me is they have two guitar players, LOL. I think the steel is in a lot of the so called country now but not mixed in where you can even tell what they are doing. Therefore, most bands won't even use a steel.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 8:29 am     Reply with quote

Roger Rettig wrote:
For the majority of players who are part-timers their chances of employment are surely governed by what is selling and/or being played on the radio.

If we had - by some miracle - a string of popular recordings that featured a prominent steel-part then that would inevitably trickle down to the grass-roots level and the weekend warriors here might find themselves in demand again.

That's the problem - most are just followers, and if Nashville producers are ignoring the steel guitar then that effect will be felt everywhere.



Bingo, Roger! Mr. Green

What was the last number-one record with a steel intro? The last one I recall was..."Thinkin' Thing", by Trace Adkins, but that was 20 years ago?! Crying or Very sad

Maybe utility players turn some people on, but I just can't get too excited when there's only steel in one or two songs in a show. Muttering

Note to Nashville: (Paraphrasing Clara Peller)...

Where's the steel???
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Mark Eaton


From:
Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 8:42 am     Reply with quote

I've gotten some good mileage for quotes on the SGF from an article about pedal steel guitar and Lloyd Green in particular that was written about 11 years ago in the no longer published magazine entitled The Journal of Country Music. Singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks was the author. Robbie was (and is) a big steel fan and Lloyd has played on some of his recordings.

Quote:
Later in the article, Fulks writes that "the 1970's look like the last time in country music when personal artistry and commercial values could co-exist. He refers to the "Muzik Mafia" and states that "country has gained a bigger, younger audience, but has lost something heartfelt and handmade...As it approaches absolute mechanical sophistication, it grows less worthy of our emotional attachment."

The next paragraph:

"I don't know if Lloyd Green would agree with these sentiments about the decline of his genre. His own view of the future of the pedal steel is troubled.

Green:

"The instrument's really in a quagmire. The way it's played and sounds is stereotypical. It's like verbal placeholders in conversation, when you start saying uh-uh because you aren't able to say anything substantive. If it doesn't end up getting totally discarded, you might hear it come around in jazz, or blues.'"




Since Lloyd doesn't post here, some of us have had the honor in the past of posting for him sort of as "proxy." He and I exchanged some emails around this time. He commented about the steel break he played a number of years ago on Alan Jackson's "Remember When." This might be my favorite pedal steel guitar solo of all time.

I don't have the exact quote in front of me, I have a copy of the email in a folder in a drawer around here - somewhere. So I'm paraphrasing. Lloyd commented that many years ago if a young player had come up with that steel solo on the Jackson song, it would have given him a great start on a career as a steel player.

When that song was released in late 2003, Lloyd wrote something to the effect that the steel playing was greeted with a "yawn" on Music Row.

Though even Lloyd Green might have been a little too cynical about that one - the song in fact made it to Number 1 on the Billboard Country charts. It's great piece on its own, outstanding job by Alan, but it's the steel work that really adds to it and makes the song for me.
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Dean Rimmer


From:
New Mexico, USA
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 9:37 am     Reply with quote

i drive down to tx. just so i can do some steel playin......
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Cody Angel


From:
Seguin, Texas
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 11:07 am     Reply with quote

I hate the current trends going on in country that have moved away from steel, but I believe it's all a cycle. I truly think the cycle is coming back around. With the popularity of Sturgill, Stapleton, Midland, and groups like this, the cycle is coming back around to more organic styles which will open the door for better instrumentation which has room for the steel guitar. I don't find myself doing a lot of Lloyd Green and Buddy style stuff right now, but I am working some sessions using drive, fuzz, and spacey effects. I think the scope of the steel gets limited to "country" music in a lot of folks minds but it's capable of so much more. I hope the country I love comes back around, but I also believe there will always be a place for the most fascinating instrument I've ever known in music. My favorite thing to play is Ray Price shuffles, but I take any opportunity I can to do something else and show another side of a somewhat pigeonholed instrument. What we need is forward thinking and to get away from the prevailing opinion that steel plays only country. I much prefer the style we enjoy to say the sacred steel type usage, but RR is the most recognizable proponent of the instrument today for the majority of people. The players, for the most part, got stuck in the way it was played years ago and forgot to grow it. This is the newest "real" instrument in popular music; that to say, excluding synths etc. it hasn't had long to grow as the dobro was invented in the last 200 years and we didn't have pedals and magnetic pickups together until the 50's. I love the steel greats, but Buddy, for all intents and purposes invented the instrument. The fiddle was modernized hundreds of years ago and is a staple in many styles of music.
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Last edited by Cody Angel on 16 Feb 2017 6:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Bo Borland


From:
South Jersey -
Post Posted 16 Feb 2017 11:11 am     Reply with quote

Everywhere I play someone always says they are glad there is a pedal steel in the band and at least 6 bands in this area have a steel player.

I found it most interesting that last year a road show of Always Patsy Cline played a long run and used a "utility " player to do the show. The entire band was 2 guys.

In prior years, a local version of the show used a synth to "approximate" the sound. They did offer me the gig but my schedule didn't make that possible. The pay scale sucked too but I wanted to do it anyway.

I have seen the show a couple times (not that version) and pedal steel was an important part of the sound and I would have been disappointed if I had purchased a ticket.


Last edited by Bo Borland on 16 Feb 2017 12:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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