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Author Topic:  Did Buddy Emmons ruin the Pedal Steel?
Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 9:07 am    
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b0b wrote:
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

He woulda ruined it anyway...
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Donny Hinson

 

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Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 10:09 am    
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b0b, though I'll probably get slammed for this, I really feel that the "atmospheric flavor" and thematic-based pedal steel you're referring to is the simplest and most-easy-to-execute stuff. As you yourself said, there are countless unknown players now doing it, and I liken it to just strumming simple chords and open/closed harmonies on a guitar. In other words, though some technique and creativity may be required, it's not something that I would exactly consider as virtuosity on the instrument.

IMHO, there are players, and then there are players.
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b0b


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Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 10:20 am    
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But Donny, simple pedal steel that sounds real nice is what sells the instrument to beginners. It's a reason for a guitar player to buy the instrument. And, truth be told, most of the parts on hit records today aren't that hard to play, regardless of instrument used. You don't have to be a virtuoso to enjoy playing music.
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Tim Sheinman

 

From:
Brighton, UK
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 10:55 am    
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Donny Hinson wrote:

IMHO, there are players, and then there are players.


Donny, would you say you are possibly representing the culture of 'chops first' that I alluded to in my original post? I think, though many would never admit it, this view is actually highly prevalent.

Personally, I'm not so into it, I think there's a lot more to playing than technique, possibly because I come originally from a songwriting background, but certainly the idea of ranking players (versus lesser players) by technique seems to have a bit of traction. What are your thoughts?
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:03 am    
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Donny Hinson wrote:

IMHO, there are players, and then there are players.

Tim Sheinman wrote:
Donny, would you say you are possibly representing the culture of 'chops first' that I alluded to in my original post? I think, though many would never admit it, this view is actually highly prevalent.

Personally, I'm not so into it, I think there's a lot more to playing than technique, possibly because I come originally from a songwriting background, but certainly the idea of ranking players (versus lesser players) by technique seems to have a bit of traction. What are your thoughts?


Well, there is technique, and then there is technique.

We should not allow the word "technique" to be so narrowly defined that it only encompasses fast chops. It takes a helluva lot of technique to play beautiful ballads that move people to tears. Mr. Emmons was a prime example of that (as well as other aspects of technique), as was John Hughey, Herby, Hal, and many others who excelled at the full range of technique needed to master the instrument. Certainly, today, Paul F., Tommy W., Doug J. and many others also qualify.
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:25 am    
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Tim Sheinman wrote:
Donny Hinson wrote:

IMHO, there are players, and then there are players.


Donny, would you say you are possibly representing the culture of 'chops first' that I alluded to in my original post? I think, though many would never admit it, this view is actually highly prevalent.


Oh snap! Laughing Looks like you made his point for him. De-legitimizing touching, tasty playing just because it does not require extreme skill isn't good for any instrument.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:26 am    
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Quote:
We should not allow the word "technique" to be so narrowly defined that it only encompasses fast chops. It takes a helluva lot of technique to play beautiful ballads that move people to tears. Mr. Emmons was a prime example of that (as well as other aspects of technique), as was John Hughey, ...

Totally agreed. I think it takes most people years developing critical basic technique to simply "not suck" at pedal steel. The word "chops" is sort of a musician-to-musician thing. I appreciate real "chops", but speed picking is not what drew me to pedal steel in the first place, and I suspect many others also.

Will the "real" Buddy Emmons please stand up?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpWvow_WRxE (Donny posted this on a different thread earlier today)

or one Paul McEvoy posted earlier on that thread:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnEMOQTh27s

or this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM11nQZHacU

or this one?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T_CvYnLxbY

or this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10h8hlP4xnk

or this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jn90y9H9S4

or this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a7apMLGcCs

I could go on and on ...
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:44 am    
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Curt Trisko wrote:
[ De-legitimizing touching, tasty playing just because it does not require extreme skill isn't good for any instrument.

I legitimize a player’s touching, tasty playing for itself, but it’s also more than likely because the player is highly skilled in everything they play, as Dave M’s post above demonstrates. Maybe anyone can play the simpler stuff, but a great player makes the simple stuff sound real good. I believe that is good for the instrument and the players.
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Jim Cooley


From:
The 'Ville, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:51 am    
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Jim Cohen wrote:
We should not allow the word "technique" to be so narrowly defined that it only encompasses fast chops. It takes a helluva lot of technique to play beautiful ballads that move people to tears.


Absolutely, Jim; I don't believe we should automatically associate chops with speed either, for the same reason. While I appreciate good, clean speed picking, it never sent shivers up my spine or made my chest turn to jelly. There will always be something special about that perfect resolve, bar slide and slant, and bending notes in just the right way. As somebody once said, I can play 128th notes, and if you don't believe me, I'll play one.
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:54 am    
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Fred Treece wrote:
Curt Trisko wrote:
[ De-legitimizing touching, tasty playing just because it does not require extreme skill isn't good for any instrument.

I legitimize a player’s touching, tasty playing for itself, but it’s also more than likely because the player is highly skilled in everything they play, as Dave M’s post above demonstrates. Maybe anyone can play the simpler stuff, but a great player makes the simple stuff sound real good. I believe that is good for the instrument and the players.


That's still teetering on the edge of the trap that Tim brought up. Not wanting to acknowledge and recognize a well-chosen and well-executed piece of playing coming from a nobody on its own merits, just because you think it will take away from the prestige of a master of technique on the instrument, is toxic.
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Tim Sheinman

 

From:
Brighton, UK
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 11:56 am    
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I think technical consideration of the pedal steel is a bit of a funny one because it's just so technical to begin with. Anyone who can get a decent sound out of steel is not to be easily dismissed. It's as much a mental hurdle as physical, given all the coordination required.

It's also difficult to know quite how difficult something is on a steel - a fast passage may be pedals up and closer to lap, while a slow passage may involve multiple coordinated lever pulls, combined with precise, yet expressive bar work.

Given the difficulty of evaluation, I tend to think of things in term of how much 'personality' a player shows. I would count players with lots of personality as including Buddy Emmons, Daniel Llanois, Spencer Cullum and Jim Hoke, among many others.
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 12:38 pm    
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Quote:
That's still teetering on the edge of the trap that Tim brought up. Not wanting to acknowledge and recognize a well-chosen and well-executed piece of playing coming from a nobody on its own merits, just because you think it will take away from the prestige of a master of technique on the instrument, is toxic.

Who is doing that? Where? I haven't seen it.

Quote:
Anyone who can get a decent sound out of steel is not to be easily dismissed. It's as much a mental hurdle as physical, given all the coordination required.

I agree. And my take is that the steel guitar community is very welcoming to a new or otherwise unknown player who steps up to the plate and hits a solid one.

But there are, of course, players who do it all and they certainly get plenty of attention. How is this any different than any other instrument, field of music, art, science, or anything else? Personally, I find the steel guitar community more welcoming than the guitar community (I've been playing guitar for 50+ years), business, or the scientific/engineering community. Most communities where the stakes/rewards are high are pretty competitive, often cutthroat. I don't really see that here. Sure, players compete for gigs, but what are they supposed to do? But I'm routinely suprised at the amount of support coming from the top players. Seriously, do you see top-ranked guitar players - I mean well-known top players - routinely talking shop on a public forum like like Buddy, Paul Franklin, Johnny Cox, John Hughey, Bobbe Seymour, Tommy White, Buck Reid, Jay Dee Manness, Tommy Detamore, Herby Wallace, Randy Beavers, Reece Anderson, Ricky Davis, and many others have done over the years?
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Curt Trisko


From:
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 1:31 pm    
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Dave Mudgett wrote:
Who is doing that? Where? I haven't seen it.


In this thread once the conversation turned to saying that not all great pedal steel playing requires massive chops, people felt the urge to add, "yeah, but I bet they had massive chops in order to make it sound great."
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James Mayer


From:
back in Portland Oregon, USA (via Arkansas and London, UK)
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 1:52 pm    
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Speed as a goal on a pedal steel makes little sense to me. If that's how we define "chops" then it's a pretty silly goal, in my opinion. At the speed of the fastest steelers, it's still pretty slow compared to a fretted electric guitarist. At that speed, most people think they are hearing a six-string electric when they hear fast pedal steel on a recording. I've met plenty of deadheads that have no idea that Jerry played PSG. They just thought he was playing those parts on his six-string.

It's always made a lot more sense to me to play to an instruments strengths.
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Jim Cohen


From:
Philadelphia, PA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 3:42 pm    
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James Mayer wrote:
I've met plenty of deadheads that have no idea that Jerry played PSG. They just thought he was playing those parts on his six-string.

I don't think Jerry was particularly fast in any case as a steel player. Melodic, yes, but fast, not particularly. Now Buddy Cage, on the other hand, that's a different story.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 4:27 pm    
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Quote:
Speed as a goal on a pedal steel makes little sense to me. If that's how we define "chops" then it's a pretty silly goal, in my opinion.


Bobbe Seymour said the same thing here years ago..."Don't try to play fast, let the lead man stretch out on the fast stuff" (or something to that effect). So, we're supposed to think that because it's hard to play fast on pedal steel, we really shouldn't bother trying to learn to do it. Well, that sounds suspiciously like "sour grapes" to me. But in case it's not, I'll tell Paul and Doug the next time I talk to them not to bother playing fast anymore. Embarassed

Although I do think that some speed is important for being a "master" or virtuoso at an instrument, to say that it's the only thing that's important is oversimplification. "Shredding" isn't all there is to it. There's also soul, breadth of knowledge, and the capability to impress a sophisticated audience...one that has a good understanding of both music and the instrument.

Oh, and don't automatically look down on someone just because they can (and do) play faster than you...or your "idols". There's a good chance you're missing a master at work. Wink
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Dennis Brion

 

From:
Atwater, Ohio USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 5:55 pm    
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I think just being able to sit down behind a pedal steel and bring some music out is an incredible accomplishment for anyone! After two months for me things are getting to the point that I anticipate where I need to go next...a great step ahead for me! I think my step dad who built this guitar would be very happy with my improvement so far. Just to be able to play along with a song makes me want to learn more. Do I need to be the fastest player...never happen....can I p!ay along with some friends and get better as I go along....that is the goal! Play a little enjoy alot. The super stars of this instrument are special talents, can everyone get to that point hell no but we will and can strive to be the best we can be and I tell you right now I never imagined i could ever figure this instrument out but here I am slowly moving from wanting to play to playing! I will take that all day long there will always be super stars but all the other players keep the instrument alive!
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Bruce W. Roberts

 

From:
Indiana, USA
Post  Posted 26 Apr 2019 6:27 pm    
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As a beginner steel and old guitar player, I will learn techniques and theory from many before me but develop my own sound. May be simplistic, but it's my approach.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 27 Apr 2019 8:46 am    
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Curt Trisko wrote:
Fred Treece wrote:
I legitimize a player’s touching, tasty playing for itself, but it’s also more than likely because the player is highly skilled in everything they play, as Dave M’s post above demonstrates. Maybe anyone can play the simpler stuff, but a great player makes the simple stuff sound real good. I believe that is good for the instrument and the players.


That's still teetering on the edge of the trap that Tim brought up. Not wanting to acknowledge and recognize a well-chosen and well-executed piece of playing coming from a nobody on its own merits, just because you think it will take away from the prestige of a master of technique on the instrument, is toxic.

Yeah baby, that’s me...living fast and dangerous... Laughing
Tim covered a lot of ground in his manifesto, for which I was trying to be mindful.

I’m really trying to understand how my comment could have been interpreted the way you did. I have shared the bandstand with a hundred Tex Nobody’s like myself who have had many moments of sheer brilliance, for which many nods and hoots and hollers of approval have been exchanged. I can guarantee you that all of those band mates were both humbled and inspired by the master players we all admired - on whatever instrument. But to consider ourselves in the same league with any of them would be silly. We understood our moments of glorious musicality were their run-of-the-mill, and maybe we had the skill and inspiration to channel them accurately for that fleeting moment. We also understood that the masters did this thing day in and day out, recording, gigging, writing, etc., and our rung on the ladder is much closer to the floor than theirs.

I don’t see the “toxicity” in any of that, but maybe you were justified in thinking so without further explanation. I hope this clarifies my point a little.
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Tom Sosbe

 

From:
Rushville,In
Post  Posted 27 Apr 2019 9:57 am    
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Bob said "You don't have to be a virtuoso to enjoy playing music"
Wisest words i heard i a long time. Some know it all's need to take this to heart.
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Bob Ricker

 

From:
Nashville Tn
Post  Posted 27 Apr 2019 11:20 am    
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I understand the original posters thought. More or less can a legacy grow or become more than reality.

To me pedal steel enjoyment to the point of involvement is so personable and because the instrument is pretty eclectic and information can be hard to come by in some areas one wants to understand.

For me people like Red Rhoades playing on Seals and Crofts, John Talbot on Mason Proffit, Paul Franklin on a top 40 record, Rusty Young and his originality got me interested. JD Maness made me want to get much better. I think it is up to an individual as to what drives you and what you want to create. I think living in Nashville and having involvement in music can give a different perspective on what is perceived as "real", versus possibly what you hear presented as reality at steel guitar shows per se. Don't get me wrong there is nothing wrong with shows.

When you hire steel players for sessions you get a whole different outlook. I think it is so individual it is hard to argue on a forum because of the various source of interest. Sure Buddy Emmons had a major impact as an innovator and player. There are many great creators new and old. Find your enjoyment and create your own.
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Tommy White

 

From:
Nashville
Post  Posted 27 Apr 2019 8:46 pm    
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Edited to reflect a rethink of my thoughts about the topic and The great Buddy Emmons.

Last edited by Tommy White on 28 Apr 2019 5:15 am; edited 2 times in total
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Alan Cannell

 

From:
United Kingdom
Post  Posted 28 Apr 2019 12:42 am    
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You’re obviously correct in your comment Tommy. Now if you made a comment similar to the original post I might even doubt the world was round but everyone amateurs or professionals , have the right to air their views , but as so often the case , a know it all amateur can state a distorted view. It’s easy to get angry but as I said before don’t believe everything you read, I seldom take too much note of amateur comments and sometimes question a professionals opinion. Believe it or not , but several years ago a British journalist commented Buddy Emmons should stick to Bass and not Pedal Steel , the proof of the pudding is in the eating and I’ve always found Buddy’s food the most digestible.
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post  Posted 28 Apr 2019 3:20 am    
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Thank you, Tommy.

A proper thesis would have to include a demonstrable premise--that pedal steel has been ruined--before moving on to who ruined it.

I can't imagine that this thread would have appeared before Mr. Emmons' death. He might have laughed and agreed, but I'll bet he could have come up with an entertaining defense.
As a bass player, perhaps.
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Tim Sheinman

 

From:
Brighton, UK
Post  Posted 28 Apr 2019 3:55 am    
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Tommy White wrote:
Edited to reflect a rethink of my thoughts about the topic and The great Buddy Emmons.


This has absolutely no place in any sort of debate, Mr White you should check your attitude. It's also totally out of order to level personal comments at a poster (right Bob?), regardless of your feelings about the matter. PM me an apology any time you like. Unfortunately for you, I can play more than just a little bit (though possibly not how you like it).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAMIRqGWavk

In the original post, I advanced;

Tim Sheinman wrote:
'Emmons's virtuosic output cemented a culture of technique above all else. This elevation of technical skill and 'session chops' persists today as a defining feature of top tier players'


you said;

Tommy White wrote:
Edited to reflect a rethink of my thoughts about the topic and The great Buddy Emmons.


What could I possibly say to prove my point more clearly?

A quick follow up to Alan and Charlie. Firstly, the separation of 'amateur' vs 'professional' opinion is totally meaningless (and rather points to the insular culture I initially alluded to)- it's the quality of the opinion that counts, plus this is a forum made up overwhelmingly of amateur (i.e. unpaid) players. Also there is absolutely no need to 'prove' a thesis because I never advanced a thesis in the first place, I just posed some questions for discussion, perhaps you would care to thoughtfully address them?

b0b wrote:
I've edited out Tommy's original remarks as he has retracted them and apologized for his attack on Tim.

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Last edited by Tim Sheinman on 28 Apr 2019 4:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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