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Author Topic:  Did Buddy Emmons ruin the Pedal Steel?
Dennis Brion


From:
Atwater, Ohio USA
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 3:25 pm    
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Hey BOB if it ain't a cowboy hat or a ball hat I'm out of touch...LOL
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Paul McEvoy


From:
Baltimore, USA
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 3:26 pm    
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Dennis Brion wrote:
Of you want to be impressed go to playpedalsteel.com and watch buddy on the players videos page in a top hat....you talk about lightning....and free style this video is incredible sorry I don't know how to post it here. Really hope everyone checks this video out! If so.done can post it here everyone will enjoy watching!


Hate to say that I’ve seen that clip before and while it’s amazing it doesn’t really reach me. Sounds like a lot of big band jazz which is not really my thing and I’d prefer to hearing an actual big band play it.

Again, it is amazing.
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scott murray


From:
Asheville, NC
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 4:46 pm    
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Paul McEvoy wrote:
b0b wrote:
Paul McEvoy wrote:
I know nothing but have big opinions.

I confess that the majority of Emmons’ playing I’ve heard leaves me cold (despite understanding he helped define the instrument).

But then this particular clip. I’ve watched approx 9000 times over the last couple months and think it’s such an astounding musical performance. Total genius.

But I haven’t found much that feels similar to me.

https://youtu.be/qnEMOQTh27s


That's a great clip! What was Ernest shouting about Shot Jackson in the middle of Buddy's solo? Couldn't quite catch it.

Buddy always looked so relaxed as he pulled out those incredible licks - pickin' and grinnin'. His stage presence was something that few players could pull off. Like Jeff Newman or Joe Wright, he was a showman. Most steel players are expressionless until the end of the song, like Jimmy Day. Alien Alien Alien Mr. Green


I know but why can’t I find more stuff like that? It’s so amazing.

Someone commented before he’s saying something about a “shot Jackson lick” but I can’t here it totally.

It’s truly a remarkable performance. You could create a BE fan if you could point me towards some more like that.



that's a great clip... I first saw it many years ago and I always got the feeling Buddy had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he played it. seems to me he's emulating Ralph Mooney to a large degree which was a pretty new and exciting sound at that time but Buddy doesn't really seem convinced.

Lloyd Green said something recently about being backstage at the Opry in those days where Buddy and Jimmy Day were usually holding court. they both seemed convinced that E9 was on its way out, like a novelty or gimmick of sorts.

of course they were wrong but it shows you where their heads and hearts were really at during that timeframe. listen to Buddy's fills on C6 during the first verse, that to me is the true Emmons sound and the type of playing he most enjoyed.

it sounds to me like Ernest says, "I think Shot Jackson is looking, Buddy."
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Dennis Brion


From:
Atwater, Ohio USA
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 4:59 pm    
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I also seem to think. Buddy preferred c6 and the jazz riffs! Some of those jazz riffs are controlled chaos with all musicians taking different routes to the same end point....maybe a better challenge for buddy than straight four chord country music...who knows just thinking out loud. Still think buddy and those guys were the greatest ever but that doesn't mean that some new player will jump in and dazzle us....I myself can't wait to hear it! I am learning to play because I love the sound and that style of country music....hopefully I am smart enough and coordinated enough to learn at my age!!!
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 5:38 pm    
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scott murray wrote:
that's a great clip... I first saw it many years ago and I always got the feeling Buddy had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he played it. seems to me he's emulating Ralph Mooney to a large degree which was a pretty new and exciting sound at that time but Buddy doesn't really seem convinced.

It's all good fun. Buddy is playing western swing backup in the style of the great non-pedal players, and then when Ernest tosses him a solo he plays Mooney licks. I love it!
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Bob Russell


From:
North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 24 Apr 2019 6:40 pm    
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1. Who says the pedal steel has been "ruined"?

2. If anything "ruins" any music, it's unimaginative players who adopt any one player as their be-all and end-all and don't bring anything of themselves to the table.
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Jack Hanson


From:
San Luis Valley, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 4:30 am    
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Jim Cohen wrote:
Here's an alternative hypothesis: Buddy didn't ruin steel guitar. Jerry Byrd did. Go.

Sol Hoopii could also be blamed.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 4:47 am    
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Bob Russell wrote:
1. Who says the pedal steel has been "ruined"?

2. If anything "ruins" any music, it's unimaginative players who adopt any one player as their be-all and end-all and don't bring anything of themselves to the table.


Wish I had said that! Mr. Green

The reason that straight guitar is so diverse is that so many players decided not to copy someone else. That's also played a big part in it's popularity.
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Paul McEvoy


From:
Baltimore, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 5:05 am    
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Well I guess it’s somewhat notable that my favorite BE solo is him imitating someone else. I can’t question his virtuosity though. Just amazing playing.
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Rick Abbott


From:
Indiana, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 5:35 am    
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Donny Hinson wrote:
Bob Russell wrote:
1. Who says the pedal steel has been "ruined"?

2. If anything "ruins" any music, it's unimaginative players who adopt any one player as their be-all and end-all and don't bring anything of themselves to the table.


Wish I had said that! Mr. Green

The reason that straight guitar is so diverse is that so many players decided not to copy someone else. That's also played a big part in it's popularity.


Is it possible that you just made the OP's argument in a sentence?
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 7:24 am    
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I've tried to copy Emmons just twice: many years ago on "Someday Soon", and postmortem on "Blue Jade" as a tribute. For comparison, I've copied 4 songs (at least) from Jerry Byrd.

While I love and respect the "Big E", I think that most players, like me, find their own voice in the instrument. His influence in the development of the instrument is undeniable, but I don't hear Buddy Emmons' technique at all in what most people play. Among my generation, I hear more of Jeff Newman than anyone else.
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Hook Moore


From:
South Charleston,West Virginia
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 8:22 am    
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Smile
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Blaine Moore
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Drew Howard


From:
48854
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 9:12 am    
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Of course BE didn't ruin steel, he created it.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 9:22 am    
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Donny Hinson wrote:
The reason that straight guitar is so diverse is that so many players decided not to copy someone else. That's also played a big part in it's popularity.

Donny, I always thought everyone was trying their darndest to copy everyone. Same result, different path. Being able to accompany yourself singing and then rip off a smokin solo may have had something to do with the rise of the git-tar too, which is very rare among steelers.

The diversity of steel playing is well represented in BE and other greats of the dawning era, as well as in players today like Buck Reid and Paul Franklin. But the popularity of the instrument is ultimately in the hands of the listening public, who see it mainly as a side instrument like fiddle, saxophone, bass, glockenspiel, etc., if they see it at all. That will always be the largest determining factor in what and how much gets played on anything.

It sure helps when the occasional star (Jerry Douglas, Robert Randolph) shines bright enough for the whole world to see.

I’m enjoying some of the short responses here, which I am incapable of making...The straight rhetorical answer to the OP’s straight rhetorical question is, “No.”
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 9:46 am    
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I don't think most pedal steel players have slavishly copied Buddy Emmons. Good luck, anyway - it is very hard to do. I know I certainly don't slavishly copy anybody. But I do believe Buddy's influence is absolutely pervasive. Still, there are lots of different "schools" of thought about pedal steel playing. I think most of them build upon foundations that Buddy and other early innovators set. But a bunch of people have set out in very different directions.

Quote:
I know nothing but have big opinions. ... I confess that the majority of Emmons’ playing I’ve heard leaves me cold (despite understanding he helped define the instrument). ... But then this particular clip. I’ve watched approx 9000 times over the last couple months and think it’s such an astounding musical performance. Total genius. ... But I haven’t found much that feels similar to me. ... https://youtu.be/qnEMOQTh27s

Look, we all have a right to like what we like. You seem to be into that more guitaristic, chicken-pickin' style more typically emblematic of Ralph Mooney and others. There are lots of people in that club - I love it too. In fact, I'd say that when I started out playing pedal steel, coming from 30+ years of guitar playing, I was coming from a more West Coast, Bakersfield angle. And it showed in my playing - I picked every damned note. But gradually and with some tutelage, I came to realize that I wasn't really exploiting the true beauty of what's in the instrument naturally. You might come to this realization, or you might not. It doesn't matter - do what you want.

Quote:
The reason that straight guitar is so diverse is that so many players decided not to copy someone else. That's also played a big part in it's popularity.
Quote:
Is it possible that you just made the OP's argument in a sentence?

I don't think that makes the OP's argument at all. Spanish guitar is much older, with probably tens if not hundreds of millions of practitioners, of course most not at a high level. But guitar is a HUGE field, and this has been building for a very long time. It's portable, relatively cheap, most anybody can learn to make 'em sound semi-decent and loud, and then pretty easily use them to make major musical, social, cultural, and political statements. IMO, guitar became the primary musico-cultural icon of the 20th century, at least its second half. So it stands to reason that there would be a lot more diversification than for pedal steel, a relatively niche instrument that is relatively hard to get ahold of and hard to play. The instrument naturally doesn't lend itself to flashy spectacle - pretty hard to imagine a pedal steel as a phallic symbol and run around the stage with it. It is what it is.

There are two basic philosophical concepts of "freedom" that have been getting bandied about especially lately, and I believe relate to this topic. One is the concept of "freedom from something" (sometimes called Negative Liberty), the other is "freedom to do something" (sometimes called Positive Liberty). I guess I'm pretty conservative in this sense, because I believe that nobody can give someone "Positive Liberty" - I believe it must come from inside. This is related to the philosophical concept of "Free Will". I believe there is such a thing as "Free Will", and my main concern is that we enjoy freedom from domination by others, i.e., what is normally called "Negative Liberty". As long as nobody stops us from doing something, everything comes from inside the person.

So to me, the idea that Buddy Emmons or anybody else "ruined" anything about pedal steel guitar is a pile of BS. For the most part, at least in the US, we are free from the type of domination that would prevent us from doing most things, and certainly from playing whatever the hell we please on pretty much any instrument we please. Everything else is up to us, and the limitations are from within, not without. Yes, things influence us in positive and negative ways, welcome to the real world. If you wanna' make a living at something, you gotta do what someone else will pay you to do. But nobody, and certainly not Buddy Emmons, had or has any responsibility to "push" pedal steel in any particular direction that happens to suit a bunch of musicologists/historians who think this or that about where things ought to go. There are plenty of great players who are helping to move the instrument along, and that should be enough for us.

And I'm sorry to have to go so long-winded to basically argue this most basic and brilliant idea advanced by one who just did whatever the hell he wanted to do and took no quarter from anybody - "Shut up and play your guitar!"
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 10:05 am    
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Dave Mudgett wrote:
I don't think most pedal steel players have slavishly copied Buddy Emmons. Good luck, anyway - it is very hard to do.

Exactly. Copy what aspect of his playing? Maybe you can cop one of his famous pop tune solos, like b0b said. But to master pedal steel in Country, pop, and jazz styles, without compromising your soul or the style of music, is not going to happen for most of us. Slaving over any one player’s style is a fool’s errand anyway. Only the masters know exactly how they got there, and are hard pressed to explain it at that.

People are always telling me I sounded like Craptonite. That must be some kind of punk band or something?
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 10:33 am    
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Somebody told me I should be on the stage.
"There's one leaving in 15 minutes"! Whoa!
Erv
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Dennis Brion


From:
Atwater, Ohio USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 11:29 am    
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Craptonite wasn't that the stuff that got superman.......LOL
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Brad Malone


From:
Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 11:43 am     LOW(Lack of work and DWI ruined the music scene
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There used to be many places to play for the local musician...that and changes in the law regarding drinking lessen the opportunity to play on the weekends. The world changed so do not blame any one person for the demise of the pedal steel. Also, a lot of people do not like the high, shrill, screeching sound of the E9th tuning...I think Jeff Newman said that steels do not sound good above the 17th fret or was it the 15th fret?
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Mitch Ellis


From:
Collins, Mississippi USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 6:43 pm    
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[quote="Dave Mudgett"]I don't think most pedal steel players have slavishly copied Buddy Emmons. Good luck, anyway - it is very hard to do.

Guilty. Smile Thanks for the "Good Luck" wish because you're right. It is very hard to do. But I have learned so many unexpected things. Sometimes finding little things here and there by pure mistake. Trying to do a kick-off or a turn-around exactly the way Buddy Emmons did it can teach you much more than just the kick-off or the turn-around itself.

Mitch
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Rick Barnhart


From:
Arizona, USA
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 8:56 pm     Re: LOW(Lack of work and DWI ruined the music scene
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Brad Malone wrote:
...I think Jeff Newman said that steels do not sound good above the 17th fret or was it the 15th fret?


Thankfully, John Hughey didn’t subscribe to that theory.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 6:10 am    
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Dave Mudgett wrote:


I don't think that makes the OP's argument at all. Spanish guitar is much older, with probably tens if not hundreds of millions of practitioners, of course most not at a high level. But guitar is a HUGE field, and this has been building for a very long time. It's portable, relatively cheap, most anybody can learn to make 'em sound semi-decent and loud, and then pretty easily use them to make major musical, social, cultural, and political statements. IMO, guitar became the primary musico-cultural icon of the 20th century, at least its second half. So it stands to reason that there would be a lot more diversification than for pedal steel, a relatively niche instrument that is relatively hard to get ahold of and hard to play. The instrument naturally doesn't lend itself to flashy spectacle - pretty hard to imagine a pedal steel as a phallic symbol and run around the stage with it.


The argument that guitar has been around a lot longer, and that's why it's more diverse, is becoming hackneyed. That might have been true in the 1960s, but we're now moving quickly towards 2020. While guitar may have been around for a couple of centuries, I think it's fairly obvious that the significant diversification and the origin of different styles mainly took place in the 60-year period between 1910 and 1970. That's the period that saw guitar go off in dozens of directions stylistically, where before, there were only three or four. Indeed, some of those genres were almost created by the guitar and it's accompanying sound.

Now let's take a similar period for pedal steel guitar. Though it was around in the 1930's, due to it's mechanical limitations and scarcity, it didn't begin to get popular until the mid '50s. So let's take a similar 60-year period of 1955 to 2015 for comparison to guitar, and how far pedal steel has developed and diversified, stylistically.

(Pause here to give everyone a chance to think about it.)

As for me, I just don't see nearly as much going on, stylistically. During this period, the instrument (as heard on radio and records) advanced quite rapidly, morphing from eight strings and one pedal to two necks with ten or twelve strings and many pedals and levers in less than a decade. And still, with all those subsequent decades having passed, and even with all those increased capabilities (from the mechanical additions), there really hasn't been much happening in the way of stylistic variation and having increased it's popularity in different genres. Mainly, what I see we have going stylistically can be placed into just a few categories like country, gospel, and jazz/swing. It's dallied in rock, pop/thematic, and classical music as well, but never really blossomed there.
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 6:12 am    
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Papa John came up with that "quiver" also. Very Happy
Erv
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 7:35 am    
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Quote:
The argument that guitar has been around a lot longer, and that's why it's more diverse, is becoming hackneyed.

My argument was much more than it's been around a long time. Summarizing and perhaps expanding a bit:

1. It has been around a lot longer - various incarnations of the guitar have been around for many centuries

2. "It's portable, relatively cheap, most anybody can learn to make 'em sound semi-decent and loud, and then pretty easily use them to make major musical, social, cultural, and political statements."

3. This long buildup and the relative ease in getting one and being able to fairly quickly learn to play basic things on it has led to its adoption by a LOT of people. Many, many millions. Guitar constitutes a very large industry all by itself. Up until recently, a million guitars a year were being built. There has been a big storm in the industry when it became clear recently that it had settled down to about a half million a year.

4. And thus since the population of guitar players has been rapidly growing, of course it make sense to me that orders of magnitude more people playing it would lead to much more diversification in styles.

5. I'd add that the explosive growth of the guitar didn't start until the advent of rock and roll and the "Great Folk Scare" of the 1950s, but especially the Beatles and, in general, the British Invasion in the 1960s.

Up to electrification and Charlie Christian in the mid-late 1930s, there were not that many styles/contexts of music heavily using guitars:

1. European Renaissance/Baroque and "Classical" guitar, although it was present even before that
2. Spanish/Flamenco
3. Various types of ethnic folk music in Europe
4. Various types of folk music in the US, but especially country and blues
5. Rhythm guitar in early jazz

This is over hundreds of years.

Even with electrification, electric guitar was mostly jazz/pop of the day and blues into the 1950s. But once rock and roll hit, with large numbers of people taking up the instrument, the whole thing exploded. Rock and roll, country, blues, jazz, and folk increasingly embraced electric guitar. But it totally exploded with the Beatles and British invasion in the mid 1960s, psychedelic music and rockers embracing blues, jazz, and country elements. It wasn't just a movement of guitar - it was also a movement of different styles intertwining, with guitar at the center.

Pedal steel just didn't have the numbers to be this influential. And the instrument was really still in its infancy. Until at least the 70s, in most parts of the US, it was basically invisible. Even then, they were hard to get, expensive, and the ever-present "hard to play".

I really believe that it wasn't until the 1980s or 1990s and especially the advent of the internet and this forum that pedal steel has started to seriously grow in numbers. With this growth, I see lots more players diversifying stylistically. Sacred steel has been around for a long time, but it really only started becoming well known outside of its specific culture in the last 15-20 years since Robert Randolph exploded on the mainstream music scene.

I think there's been lots of diversification in the last 20 years. I expect there will be lots more in the future. But it's still a fairly niche, relatively hard to play instrument that I doubt will ever grow like guitar has in the last 60 years.

Quote:
Trying to do a kick-off or a turn-around exactly the way Buddy Emmons did it can teach you much more than just the kick-off or the turn-around itself.

I totally agree. I often dissect and learn elements from other players. That is not what I meant by "slavishly" copying another player.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 7:49 am    
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These days I often hear pedal steel utilized for an atmospheric flavor rather than a country flavor. Greg Leisz and BJ Cole excel at this, but there are countless examples of relatively unknown steel players backing singer-songwriters. Steel can set a very thoughtful mood behind poetic lyrics.

Buddy Emmons had nothing to do with that. Razz
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