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Author Topic:  Is Steel Guitar Fading Away?
Dom Franco


From:
Beaverton, OR, 97007
Post  Posted 3 Apr 2019 9:45 am    
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The pedal steel with it's distinctive sound has always been associated with Country Music. Even in the heyday of Country Rock (late 60's to early 80's) it had that sound "twang" that instantly caused people to think He-haw, Yippie yi yay!

The new country seems to want to distance itself from that rural sound. Hence the fat processed drums, Hip Hop dippity flipity vocals, Distorted guitars and the lack of pedal steel intros, fills and solos.

Yes there are exceptions, but Country was the real home of the pedal steel and now it is being pushed out.
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Kristen Bruno

 

From:
Orlando, Florida, USA
Post  Posted 4 Apr 2019 4:48 am    
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People appreciate it when they hear it live. But then its done. Over. They don't go running around saying "Wow I heard a steel guitar".
If a young person has a choice between playing with their cell phone or spending more than 10 minutes to learn an instrument, most usually go for the phone.
There will always be some people who will spend the time learning, but I think many go for the easy way to appreciate music, surf the web and listen to music on youtube.

K
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Landon Jarrel

 

From:
Atlanta, GA, USA
Post  Posted 5 Apr 2019 7:30 pm     x
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...

Last edited by Landon Jarrel on 17 Dec 2019 1:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ross Koeberl

 

From:
Minneapolis, MN
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 8:30 am    
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Another millennial steel player here, can confirm that most folks my age are only familiar with the steel through Spongebob. One roommate even referred to the instrument as “Spongebob guitar” whenever asking me about it. When I finally had a houseguest see it and ask if I knew how to play “Dire Wolf” I was so happy I coulda wept.
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Barry Blackwood


Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 9:10 am    
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Quote:
There will always be some people who will spend the time learning, but I think many go for the easy way to appreciate music, surf the web and listen to music on youtube.

Indeed. Don't forget Guitar Hero.
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Larry Carlson


From:
My Computer
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 9:52 am    
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Tastes in music change with time.
If an instrument or a style doesn't change with it, it will slowly die.
I was first chair trumpet in the youth symphony in my home town.
If I wanted to find a job playing trumpet now it would be a dead end.
Times change.

I love classical music. We have one station in our entire state that plays classical music.
Thank goodness I can receive it at our home.
I would stream it on bluetooth with other stations but doing that ruins the quality and depth of the sound.
I don't think the majority of the next generation listens to music anyway.
If they do they are happy with somebody beating on drums and screaming while listening on those horrible earbuds.
They wouldn't recognize music coming from a quality sound system or a live performance and live performances are also dwindling.
It is now a business designed around a catchy phrase and electronic noises and money.
Unless a group has backing with deep pockets that is becoming difficult to sustain.
Hard to make a living playing 3 hours a night twice a month at a tavern.
In 50 years or so everything will be electronic anyway.
I have a Roland GR-55 and a GK-3 installed on my Asher.
I can play the violin, cello, oboe, just about anything I want on my Asher now
and I'm just a goofball in my music room playing with what basically is an electronic toy.
Think what it will be like in 50 years.

I think music and it's presentation is always evolving.
Either evolve or die. We will always have steel guitars just like we will always have theremins.
Someone somewhere will be always be playing one.
A few will make a living at it. Most will be playing for the joy of it.

All of the above nonsense it just my opinion. It matters not what I think.
However it would be nice to be able to come back in 50 years and see what happens....... Very Happy
I'll be dust, hopefully someone is playing my guitars.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 10:29 am    
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Larry Carlson wrote:
All of the above nonsense it just my opinion. It matters not what I think. However it would be nice to be able to come back in 50 years and see what happens....... Very Happy. I'll be dust, hopefully someone is playing my guitars.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the subject. It absolutely matters what you think, being part of the collective whole of musicianhood.

Verbally expressing how we feel about music is synchronic with how we actually play. The future of steel guitar (and music in general) is going to depend on people playing it and advancing it as if their lives depended on it, even if their livelihood does not.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 6 Apr 2019 10:54 am    
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Larry Carlson wrote:
Tastes in music change with time.
If an instrument or a style doesn't change with it, it will slowly die.
I was first chair trumpet in the youth symphony in my home town.
If I wanted to find a job playing trumpet now it would be a dead end.
Times change.

I love classical music...


There are still jobs for trumpet players in jazz combos and large R&B acts. A local trumpet player I know works as much as the steel players in the area. Also, a good trumpet player can work in a classical orchestra, a job market that is closed to steel guitarists (except for rare occasions).
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Maurice Daulton

 

From:
Kentucky, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 6:52 am     Steel Guitar may be on the rise.
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I watched the ACM's last night. My opinmion was the music was for anouther generation. But ther were about 6 steel guitar p[layers on stage. A far cry for the about 2 yrs ago there was none. I did not hear but 1 and was on George Straights segment. He was a Zum player. Reba had Mike Johnson and his Emmons and u could not hear him. He was so far down in the mix. No good steel leads. He would be better off staying in Nashville. Also Miranda Lambert had a guy on a GFI.Could not hear him unless he was playing with a Boss tone. Chris Stapleton did 2 songs. The first with only piano and guitar. But the second gdid have a steel. Don't know what kind. And really Jason Aldean had one. Could not hear him either. Mabe there is hope but it will be used in a different kind music. No George Jones or Bucvk Owens kind of stuff. This does make me feel better towards its future. Thanks. If anyone wants to add to this feel free. I'm so old I do not know many new players.
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Bob Carlucci

 

From:
Candor, New York, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 3:24 pm    
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I haven't watched the CMA awards since they totally abandoned any pretense that the music they were playing was indeed country music.

C'mon now, are we REALLY supposed to have hope for the pedal steel becoming once again a viable instrument in country music? There were six steel players, ok I guess thats good.. However, what the HELL good are six or sixty steel guitars when they can't be heard??. Why even bother?. Cause they LOOK cool??
Thats like saying you saw a band with a world class guitarist with a fabulous look , and great equipment.. however, his guitar was not plugged in.. But man, did he LOOK cool!!!!

Wake me up when the great steel guitarists playing with these ""artists"" can actually be heard again... bob
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 4:17 pm    
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The music business has made it all about the singer. Or maybe vice-versa.

A band only gets acknowlegement when the singer is also a great musician and doesn’t hide it. There are no famous country bands now, so there is no sharing of spotlight or relationship between other band members and 99% of the audience. For example, everyone knew Emmylou Harris traveled with the Hot Band, and many of her fans (if not most) could name at least 3 band members and would go to concerts to see them as much as her.

Steel guitar players like Rusty Young, Buddy Cage, Hank DeVito, JayDee and others were household names for fans of the groups they were in. The music business paradigm that made them and the bands they were in popular no longer exists. The irony is that there are probably more great pedal steel players now than ever before.

This may not be a very direct answer to the OP question, but I have already taken several shots at it here as the discussion expanded and should probably just stop...😴


Last edited by Fred Treece on 8 Apr 2019 4:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bob Carlucci

 

From:
Candor, New York, USA
Post  Posted 8 Apr 2019 4:57 pm    
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Fred Treece wrote:
The music business has made it all about the singer. Or maybe vice-versa.

A band only gets only gets acknowlegement when the singer is also a great musician and doesn’t hide it. There are no famous country bands now, so there is no sharing of spotlight or relationship between other band members and 99% of the audience. For example, everyone knew Emmylou Harris traveled with the Hot Band, and many of her fans (if not most) could name at least 3 band members and would go to concerts to see them as much as her.

Steel guitar players like Rusty Young, Buddy Cage, Hank DeVito, JayDee and others were household names for fans of the groups they were in. The music business paradigm that made them and the bands they were in popular no longer exists.

This may not be a very direct answer to the OP question, but I have already taken several shots here as the discussion expanded and should probably just stop...😴

You know Fred, I never really thought it out along the lines you set forth.. It really does make sense though.. its the look and the performer not the ensemble these days,, Back when we had real, good, honest music, not pre programmed, formulaic bull crap, The "stars" loved being part of the band, and made sure their band members had a chance to shine.. Those days are over, sadly, probably for good.
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 10 Apr 2019 2:37 pm    
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I guess you could say that there aren't many "known" country bands these days, let alone those with a steel guitar. Two that come to mind are Marty Stuart's group and, of course, The Time Jumpers. But neither of these are big on the charts. Those of us fortunate enough to have lived through the "golden age" of steel guitar (abt. 1955-1975) know that steel was fairly prominent. But even then, it was not a given.

I came up with a list (in no particular order) of famous country singers in that period who either never had a steel guitar, or never really featured one prominently on any of their records. This is all just from memory, so I welcome any additions or corrections. And looking at this list, though some might disagree, it would be kinda hard to argue that a steel guitar was ever really considered as "necessary" to play country music.

Here goes:

Johnny Cash
Roger Miller
Glen Campbell
Bobby Goldsboro
Alabama
Jim Reeves
George Hamilton IV
Dave Dudley
Ferlin Husky
Jimmy Dean
Sonny James
Tom T. Hall
The Statler Bros.
Roy Clark
John Denver
Dolly Parton (after "Dumb Blond")
Charlie Rich
B.J. Thomas
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Bobby Bare
Kris Kristofferson
Tompall (& The Glaser Bros)
Hank Locklin
Claude King
Kenny Rogers
Narval Felts
Crystal Gayle


Last edited by Donny Hinson on 12 Jun 2019 7:38 am; edited 2 times in total
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David Mason


From:
Cambridge, MD, USA
Post  Posted 12 Apr 2019 10:42 pm    
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Well, I want to try to connect a particular dot here:
Quote:
C'mon now, are we REALLY supposed to have hope for the pedal steel becoming once again a viable instrument in country music?

NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! I love steel guitar, and when peeps say "country music" in this discussion I believe they mean all that throbby dreck coming out of the radio and television. You can dress up your stage robots in Nudie suits or denim rags as "signifers" to let consumers know why kind of music it is, but COME ON - Taylor Swift is a POP star. Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler oozed outta the "American Idol" machine. I don't CARE if there's a pedal steel in there, because I am so overloaded with great new music to listen to, I really can't make time to listen to crap I hate just so I can complain about it. About twenty-five, thirty years ago I figured out that I'M unhappy when I'm listening to crap and complaining about it, so I just FIX THAT or leave. But I know there are people who love to bitch - you can even make a career out of it.

Quote:
The music business has made it all about the singer. Or maybe vice-versa.

Again, for me this is a so-what moment, because I think that in this discussion when someone says "the music business" they exactly mean the promoters and purveyors of pop music. To them, "country" is just a shade, a flavor, stick a cowboy hat on a warbly dickweed and call him a country superstar after ONE GOLD SINGLE...That just doesn't MATTER to me.

If you want to listen to great music -
FIRST YOU SHOOT YOUR TELEVISION.
2) THEN YOU THROW YOUR RADIO IN THE BATHTUB, HOPEFULLY WITH SOMEBODY YOU HATE.
3) Now that you've detoxed, you're ready to start finding real music again.

But if people, just out of habit, keep turning on the radio and television expecting something GOOD TO HAPPEN IN THEIR EARS - what is WRONG with them? How many years has it been since that actually happened? Golly, you do get to choose what you consume these days - do you EAT chocolate-dipped sardines, deep-fried kitty-litterbox nuggets? Do you buy underpants 4 sizes too small for the squeezin'? Re-flea your house every couple of months cause you like to watch them hoppin' around, but ever since you turned your water heater up to 180 so you can peel a new layer of skin every shower, it kills your po' precious li'l fleas, soundtrack by Marilyn Manson's and Lady GaGa's new country/blues album....

Rolling Eyes (next time mebbe I shoot for TWO points) Rolling Eyes
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Al Evans


From:
Austin, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 13 Apr 2019 5:26 am    
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David Mason wrote:

If you want to listen to great music -
FIRST YOU SHOOT YOUR TELEVISION.
2) THEN YOU THROW YOUR RADIO IN THE BATHTUB, HOPEFULLY WITH SOMEBODY YOU HATE.
3) Now that you've detoxed, you're ready to start finding real music again.Rolling Eyes (next time mebbe I shoot for TWO points) Rolling Eyes


There ya go! We "blew up our TV" in the 1990s, and haven't missed it. The net may have just as much dreck, but you can avoid it. We have plenty of friends who play music, and we have a long-running song circle that meets the second Sunday of every month.

Last week, I worked on making an arrangement of Autumn Leaves to play with a classical guitarist friend. I'll play with my sweetie on "Along Came Jones" and a couple other tunes that usually don't have pedal steel. Myself, I'm planning on doing Jacques Brel's "La chanson des vieux amants" (vocal and acoustic guitar).

Cut loose from "the system", there's LOTS of stuff out there!

(Disclaimer: I live in Austin, which helps.)

--Al Evans
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Donny Hinson

 

From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 13 Apr 2019 7:54 am    
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Maybe if we just keep adding more strings, pedals, and levers, the pedal steel will be popular again?

A Cmaj13(#11) might do wonders for "Mansion On The Hill".

Mr. Green
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Charlie McDonald


From:
out of the blue
Post  Posted 13 Apr 2019 8:53 am    
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There ya go.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 13 Apr 2019 9:06 am    
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David Mason wrote:
Well, I want to try to connect a particular dot here:
Rolling Eyes (next time mebbe I shoot for TWO points) Rolling Eyes


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GaryL

 

From:
Medina, OH USA
Post  Posted 13 Apr 2019 8:42 pm     Fading steel
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There has been a huge change in the market, being the line-dancing clubs. The music extremely loud and simplistic. When the clubs are not selling beer they're selling lessons. It's about audience participation, like karaoke. Contemporary radio caters to it. One of the local FM deejays admitted to me that his station got their playlists from an internet provider, not a producer. When four people amplified beyond the threshold of pain fills the safe, why bother with steel? We used to have a lot of country-music venues here, (and it seems to be coming back a little) but now it's all line dancing clubs with music written by a robot with loop station. My two cents, anyways.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 14 Apr 2019 9:52 am     Re: Fading steel
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GaryL wrote:
There has been a huge change in the market, being the line-dancing clubs. The music extremely loud and simplistic. When the clubs are not selling beer they're selling lessons. It's about audience participation, like karaoke. Contemporary radio caters to it. One of the local FM deejays admitted to me that his station got their playlists from an internet provider, not a producer. When four people amplified beyond the threshold of pain fills the safe, why bother with steel? We used to have a lot of country-music venues here, (and it seems to be coming back a little) but now it's all line dancing clubs with music written by a robot with loop station. My two cents, anyways.


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Larry Ball

 

From:
Alberta, Canada
Post  Posted 25 Apr 2019 10:50 am    
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MY TWO CENTS:

Most of us trying too comment on the "Steel Guitar" in Country Music are probably like me "A Traditionalist". Meaning that Country Music has taken a turn in a different direction. Since young artist's have taken the stage in recent years there has been a focus on "New" everything. For me that was when I saw Taylor Swift opening up a show for Brad Paisley. All the guitars were using effects to no end, no more clean sounding licks. Just stretch the swings as far as you can and hold the stain of the vibrating strings. Lloyd Green made some recent comments about today's Producers and what they want to hear and the PSG is not necessarily one of them.

I was speaking to a couple from Australia, who are professional players, (Patty Long you know them.)Stuie French and his wife Camille, Michel Rose plays steel with them. Their concern was Country Music and the changes that are effecting record sales etc. I mentioned that there is still an audience out there that will purchase traditional country music. That seemed to make their day hearing that comment. Australia has a bigger audience for Traditional music than the US. They all love the Steel Guitar, that's why Paddy is so busy in session work.

Another big factor that is effecting Country Music is Smart Phones, Ipad's etc. where everyone has their face down in text's, Facebook, video games etc. and not listening to music per say.

Most of us who play music, love to listen too the great players out there "Past and Present" I learned to play guitar from listening to the "Ventures" now I am learning "Steel" from all the great Steel Players on the Forum etc.

The Steel Guitar will always have a place in Country Music. If you listened to Sarah Jory in Dallas you heard the Steel Guitar being played in so many styles.

The street sign when entering Nashville, Tenn. should read "HOME OF THE STEEL GUITAR AND TRADITIONAL COUNTRY MUSIC'
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Glenn Suchan

 

From:
Austin, Texas
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2019 9:39 pm    
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Donny Hinson wrote:
...I came up with a list (in no particular order) of famous country singers in that period who either never had a steel guitar, or never really featured one prominently on any of their records. This is all just from memory, so I welcome any additions or corrections. And looking at this list, though some might disagree, it would be kinda hard to argue that a steel guitar was ever really considered as "necessary" to play country music.

Here goes:

Johnny Cash
Roger Miller
Glen Campbell
Bobby Goldsboro
Alabama
Stonewall Jackson
Jim Reeves
George Hamilton IV
Dave Dudley
Ferlin Husky
Jimmy Dean
Sonny James
Tom T. Hall
The Statler Bros.
Roy Clark
John Denver
Dolly Parton (after "Dumb Blond")
Charlie Rich
B.J. Thomas
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Bobby Bare
Kris Kristofferson
Tompall (& The Glaser Bros)
Hank Locklin
Claude King
Jim Ed Brown (& The Browns)
Kenny Rogers
Narval Felts
Crystal Gayle


Donny, your list is not entirely correct. There are artists from that list who not only had steel on their albums, but were very audible if not iconic to the recordings.

Stonewall Jackson's 1959 album, The Dynamic Stonewall Jackson
"That's Why I'm Walking"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79JJNGV7AN0
"The Carpet on the Floor"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcA56KpPSb4
"Life To Go"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ2qeKnImNs

and his entire 1979 album, Bad Ass. Here are a few tracks from that album:
"Alcohol of Fame"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGjG5BlVrjU
"The Pint of No Return". (Co-written with Johnny Paycheck)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX-Y5cuYs5Y
"Jesus Took the Outlaw Out of Me"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPco4MhcmAw

Roger Miller's legendary album, A Trip in the Country features Buddy Emmons' masterful artistry on the entire album. Here are a few tracks:
"A World So Full of Love"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ban1gKd_HSk
"Tall, Tall Trees"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sZRWlPV1ns&list=PLzBDtDLSlWnI7jNupwS5RLwOktrStl6dQ&index=1
"My Ears Should Burn (When Fools Are Talked About)"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ-canM0IXM&list=PLzBDtDLSlWnI7jNupwS5RLwOktrStl6dQ&index=5
"Invitation to the Blues"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7U2bmW4CiA&list=PLzBDtDLSlWnI7jNupwS5RLwOktrStl6dQ&index=11

Jim Ed Brown's hit, "Pop a Top"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOlZgr9vwgY

There might be more songs recorded by these and other artists from your list which featured prominent steel playing. These examples were off the top of my head.

Keep on pickin'!
Glenn
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 10 Jun 2019 10:35 pm    
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I'm going to admit that I haven't read every word of this thread before responding, but one point that stuck out was that kids now expect instant gratification and don't have the patience to learn any instrument, let alone PSG. Of course there are exceptions, and those who have the intellect to lose themselves in musical study will tend to succeed. So maybe we can hope for quality of steel players in the future if not quantity.

I have a friend who is old like me. He flies planes and laments the fact that all the other fliers he meets are old guys too and no youngsters seem to be taking it up. You have to study hard to get a licence, and you have to put in the hours to keep it.

So maybe this is not just a musical problem.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 11 Jun 2019 1:12 am    
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its not the music or the Steel guitar, it's the generations that followed "OUR" generation.

When was the last time we heard a Blues Harp on the AM radio , like Paul Butterfield ?


I happen to know a 33 year fella, who never even saw a Rocky Movie, or Back to the Future. He also has no clue who Mark Knopfler is.

We are connected to the hip with Steels, we look for it each day, all day.

I've been playing over 40 years, nobody knows who I am either !

We are not mainstream because our music is not mainstream, it's barely any "stream".

Cellphones , texting, YouTube, Facebook, internet games has taken over the younger generations. They barely have any interest in any music when they get past 18 years old ! Adele included. People can only do so much in the course of a day or week. They go where their interest lie.

BUT, we still have our place, and we still play. I still play regularly. One band I am with, 4 years now, they created their own outlet 7 years ago. The leader hooked up with a restaurant, scheduled a show every other Thursday. he runs a newspaper add and a Facebook add for each show as well. People came , slowly at first, now its a staple in the area. We draw approx 100 or more each show in the restaurants overflow room. Not only is it good for us but the restaurant says it's their busiest night of the week. A win win. Ok so don't expect a $150 pay check. Expect fun, an outlet to play and some money.

No place to play ? Go create one. Wine Rooms, small restaurants, Craft Beer joints etc, the landscape has indeed changed but it didn't die out, it just changed.

Use the advertising tools we have right in front of us, forums, facebook, blanket emails, etc...If people are hooked on FB and Email, well hell, send them a note ! Go get them from where they are hanging out ! Smile

Several years ago my friend in Florida got let go from some sort of show venue, he plays Steel and Guitar. He then hooked up with another group of players who now run a weekly show , they rent the venue and sell tickets, its sold out each show. It took a few minutes to get it together but now its a staple in his community. Its probably way more prep work then expected for each show. He created a "WAY" rather than waiting for a "WAY" to find him.

I think so many of us thru the years didn't have to do anything, our phone rang with a gig offer. The business was hot for us. Not anymore. It appears we are still just waiting for the phone to ring which most likely is not going to happen.

Create a "WAY"
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Bob Ricker

 

From:
Nashville Tn
Post  Posted 11 Jun 2019 2:50 am    
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I think culture in general changes. Think about when you were about 18-21 years old in past generations. There were Bars, Beer Joints, dance halls that had music, with bands and some pedal steel. I grew up in a rural county but there were still 5-6 clubs that hired bands and some with steel. Today none of those exist. In the mid-1990's there were big country music dance halls, with higher paying gigs, national acts came in from time to time. Smaller clubs tried to emulate that best they could. TV shows that show country dancing and played music. Those mostly seem gone also. I think a lot of culture has changed where people spend time relaxing and having fun. My mom and dad would have gone dancing to a band, people today go to University/Professional sports and party and drink there. Children's activities such as sports, music, scholastic utilize a lot of family time.

I live in Nashville and there is a lot of steel guitar and places to play/record. There are lot of young steel and guitar players that are great. I realize that not the norm.

I know several country music fans that come to Nashville to have fun a couple times a year. People travel to fun destinations now.


Like someone said above you have to be inventive and create spots locally and create interest or go to where steel is happening. Quite possibly this has always been the case.
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