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Post new topic How Did You Get Started On The Pedal Steel?
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Author Topic:  How Did You Get Started On The Pedal Steel?
Bob Carlucci

Candor, New York, USA
Post Posted 5 Mar 2017 2:38 pm     Reply with quote

The music of NRPS, Poco, FBB, PPL just set me on fire, and I had to seek out that SOUND I heard.. Found out what it was, and went and bought one [wife LET me buy it for my 22nd Bday].. That was over 40 years ago.. It was a very natural and easy learn for me, and it was off to the races... I miss those days... bob
I'm over the hill and hittin'rocks on the way down!

no gear list for me.. you don't have the time......
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Eric Philippsen

Central Indiana, USA
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 7:13 am     Reply with quote

My story. Decades old. Sorry about the length of this.

I first heard pedal steel at a Grateful Dead concert in Chicago. The New Riders of the Purple Sage opened for them with Buddy Cage on steel. Sitting in the cheap seats I could barely see the band but when Buddy took his first solo I was blown away by what I heard. I turned to those I was with and asked, "WHAT was that!?!?" The next day I bought one of their albums.

Fast forward 10 years and I was a know-it-all 6-string rocker. Somehow I landed a job with a country band that was playing a LOT and making waaay better $$ than any rock band I had been in. One night the singer said a steel player would be sitting in. He sat right next to me and after the first set I pointed to his Sho-Bud and said, "I gotta' get me one of doughs'!!!"

Walked into the local music store the next week and the owner had just gotten four Sho-Bud Super Pros from his rep. $1500 each and 2 were already gone. I don't know how I did it but I bought one of the remaining two.

So there I was with all this money invested and not a clue how to play the damn thing. And back then teachers were just plain non-existent even in the South Bend/Mishawaka area, home of Buddy Emmons, Herb Remington and Sneaky Pete Kleinow.

So I got a copy of Winnie Winston's book, woodshedded and started playing 1-2 songs per set with the band. Basically, at first, I remember just rockin' the AB pedals and chording along. But the band loved it and so did I. Then, maybe 6 months later, I went to Jeff Newman's school in Nashville for a week-long intermediate course. Jeez, what an experience.

And it took off from there.

Now, decades later, I'm an old steeler. Naw, really, compared to so many others, I'm not anywhere close to their playing ability. But I'm still gigging as a sideman because I learned some hard lessons. That is:

1) If your name isn't on the marquee it's not about you. Read that again.
2) Know when to SHUT UP. One tasty lick goes 10x farther than playing non-stop throughout a song.
2) My job is to make the singer and song sound good. Period.
3) Be reliable, show up on time, don't get drunk or stoned and don't speak bad about anyone. I learned all those lessons the hard way.
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Ian Rae

Redditch, England
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 10:19 am     Reply with quote

How did I get started? Pure luck. I'd always loved the sound since I first heard the mature Buddy Emmons c. 1970, but I knew I would never play. Twenty years passed, and then suddenly there one was, sitting in the corner of my local music store with very few strings on it. They didn't know what it was so they took the equivalent of $300 for it.

It was another 20 years before I had the time to fix it up, but when I retired a few years back I got it going and discovered that it's a fine instrument, although no-one knows who built it.

I don't play it any more as it's too heavy and I'm happy with my homemade uni, but I've now got a hobby which will keep me fascinated until I drop.
No-name 60s D10 8x5, homebuilt Uni 12 7x5, Hilton pedal, pair of Fender 112s
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Bill Terry

Bastrop, TX
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 11:58 am     Reply with quote

Chris Schlotzhauer wrote:
I bought one

I saw Chris playing one and getting all the chicks.. so I bought one too.
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Tony Smart

Harlow. Essex. England
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 2:10 pm     Reply with quote

I started off learning Hawaiian guitar, but went over to pedals when an arsonist set fire to my grass skirt.......
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Charlie McDonald

out of the blue
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 2:21 pm     Reply with quote

That gui is so cool, Ian. I'll admit I like the esthetic of the new one, but the old one, very classy.

I was getting started with the Yamaha keyboard I bought, for its steel sound. As you know, that wouldn't cut it, and it you know
it's a downhill slope from there, and you've got to have a pedal steel, and you know you're gonna, just to get that sound.
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John De Maille

On a Mountain in Upstate Halcottsville, N.Y.
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 4:02 pm     Reply with quote

I was first stung by the sound in the late 60's, when, the Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo came out. I was mesmerized by the sound, but, didn't know what it was. I got my first steel, a Fender six string in 71' and used it to play gigs and record an album. But, I wanted to play country, so, I found a used Sho-Bud Maverick for $135.00 and bought it in 74'. I taught myself to play it, since, I couldn't find anybody who taught the steel. . Luckily for me, I got hooked up with the PSGA and joined the club. What a treasure trove of information! I met Jeff Newman, who became a great friend, and went to several of his seminars, which, helped me immensely. I still thank him for my steel knowledge, today.
In 76' I finally bought my first pro steel. An S-11 RusLer with 5+4. It's a great steel, which, I played for 29 years. I still have it and won't ever sell it. Played many 5-6 night a week gigs with it. Plus, many recordings. In 2003 I bought a new U-12 ZumSteel with 7+5 and it's simply a wonderful, great steel. I use it exclusively now, when, I play. In the 2000's my playing slowed down a bit to almost nothing. I mainly just did steel shows and a few shows with our band. After I moved to upstate NY I figured my playing career was over and I accepted that. But, I was wrong! I got a call from a friend to sit in and play s few jobs. It turned out to be a permanent position. So, for the last 3 years, I've been playing regularly up to 50 to more gigs a year. It's been an interesting career so far, all starting with that haunting sound in 1968.
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Terry Winter

Saskatchewan, Canada
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 6:14 pm     Reply with quote

About 40 years ago I had been playing drums and bass in local dance bands and ran across a Little Buddy steel in a music store....had saved enough to buy it as I always had loved country music and the contribution a Steel adds to it.
Just a quick reality story...a few years ago a good older friend of mine in the nursing home was sharing music conversation with a old buddy who said"Terry plays that steel quite well eh?) Yea he does but you should have heard him when he was learnin Shocked
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David Mason

Cambridge, MD, USA
Post Posted 7 Mar 2017 8:59 pm     Reply with quote

Mine was quite a studied decision, really. Duane Allman had a lock on my dendrites, but I just COULDN'T make six-string slide guitar DO what I wanted it to. I actually realize I was hinting at something I've got back to; I was playing arpeggios with the tip of the slide and a delay pedal to try to get "better" chords. I can now hear all SORTS of great slide, Kevin Breit, Steve Dawson, of course the monsters Landreth & Trucks. But it's still not what I wanted. A pedal steel seemed like the best way to go, althogh now I've (mostly) regressed to 10 and 8-string non-pedal. (Electronic) looper pedals allow me to build chords one voice at a time - it's like opening a little door into a brand new UNIVERSE. Three-note chord to any other three-note chord: one voice up, two voices down or vice-versa. Four note chords (or a doubled octave): two voices up, two down. Mind-Consuming to say the very least.
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John Alexander

Post Posted 9 Mar 2017 1:04 am     Reply with quote

I got inspired by seeing & hearing Red Rhodes every Sunday afternoon on Cal Worthington's TV show, Cal's Corral, in maybe 1964-65. In 1978 I ordered a new MSA Classic S12 Bb6 guitar, and within the next few years got various in-person help from steel players Jimmy Christensen, Russ Rickmann, Charlie McVay, Jr., and others.
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Herb Steiner

Spicewood TX 78669
Post Posted 9 Mar 2017 5:39 am     Reply with quote

John Alexander wrote:
I got inspired by seeing & hearing Red Rhodes every Sunday afternoon on Cal Worthington's TV show, Cal's Corral, in maybe 1964-65.

Me too. Wink

Coming from dobro and non-pedal guitar, I couldn't figure out how Red was getting all those notes without moving the bar. Naive teenager.
Herb's Steel Guitar Pages
Texas Steel Guitar Association
Allison String Instruments
My rig: Infinity and Telonics.

Son, we live in a world with walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with steel guitars. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg?
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Ollin Landers

Chapel Hill, NC
Post Posted 10 Mar 2017 10:54 am     Reply with quote

I played 6 string guitar since the age of 16. When I first came to know what slide guitar was I began experimenting and trying to emulate my favorite players at that time, Duane Allman, Johnny Winter, and all the old traditional blues men.

When I was in the Navy I played slide in a local band and the other guitar player told me I ought to get a Lap Steel.

When I left the Navy in 85' I forgot about music for a couple of years but remembered what this guy had suggested. I tried to find a Lap Steel in the late 80's and was given a guys number, Andy Norman. Andy had studied with Jeff Newman at the Top Gun school and he told me not to waste my time on Lap Steel that I should just go straight to PSG. I promptly found an old Maverick at a Pawn Shop and began the first Newman course that Andy loaned me. It was the Jeff Newman course with the 45rpm record. Very, very basic course.

Never saw Andy again, he went back to teaching auto mechanics at the local tech school.

If I ever see Andy again I don't know if I'll thank him or punch him out (Ha).
Zum SD-12, Carter S-12, Nashville B-Bender Tele, Eastman Mandolin, BX500, Tommy Huff Cab with Telonics Neo 15, a pair of Cube 80XL's, and a few gadgets. One day I'll learn to play'em.

“I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.”
― W.C. Fields
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Stephen Rethmeier

Yorba Linda, California, USA
Post Posted 11 Mar 2017 2:33 pm     Reply with quote

I started late playing music. When I was 48 (9 years ago) I decided to take guitar lessons, and within the year had learned enough to play at a local church with their band. after a year or so, I was feeling like I wanted to be stretched to learn and grow, so I started a 5-piece hard rock cover band called See Alice. The key was that I asked a friend who had been playing guitar for 25+ years to be the front man and lead guitar player. I played rhythm guitar and he taught me a ton.

Around that time (about 4 years ago), a producer friend invited me to his studio to watch and hear this guy play pedal steel on 3 or 4 songs for 2 different artists he was working with. That guy was Greg Leisz and he was playing a Williams 12 E9 extended. I stood right next to him (I asked if I could) and watched him play. If I'd drooled, it would have landed on the fret board. I was smitten by the sound and his playing. I also thought, "hey, how hard can it be?"

Within a week I had been referred to John McClung (he's on the forum and a great guy) for lessons. He kindly tracked down a Carter Pro for me to buy (great guitar with wonderful warm tone). I think I did 4 lessons with him and then put it away, convinced I would never be a pedal steel player. Then about 2 years ago, I was playing guitar and 8-string lap steel for a local artist and one night decided to bring the PS to a show and see if I could make some non-offensive sounds that worked for the set. I was very below average...

Nevertheless, I got the bug again and started practicing at my own pace using some of John's material, as well as Jeff Rady's lessons and tabs from the I've learned a ton from Jeff and have had fun playing for various people in the area during that time. I even got a regular gig with a local band but the band chemistry sucked so I moved on.

About 4 months ago I was feeling discouraged and considering quitting and literally the next day I got an email from a guy who was referred to me for pedal steel for an album he was doing. I played on that, and then right after I got a call to play on another album.

I still feel like I'm very below average on this thing, but I've learned to stop saying that when people ask me about playing pedal steel ("yeah, I play, but I suck"). Instead, I just say "yes, I play" and leave it at that. I imagine I'll never feel like I'm any good.

Oh, and I finally decided to buy a Williams 12 extended a few weeks ago. It should be here in June. Very Happy This was a significant decision for me because it was based on the me coming to terms with the idea that I'm a pedal steel player and will likely be that until I can no longer play and/or breathe...

Appreciate the OPs question and the chance to share my story. Although I don't post a lot, this forum and its members have been an important part of my journey, and I thank all of you for the contributions you've made.
Williams S12 Ext. E9, Carter Pro SD-10, Telonics TCA 500C, Quilter Steelaire, Georgeboards 8 console, 1937 Model 59 Rick 6, 1940 Epiphone 7-string Zephyr, Oahu 6, a couple Magic Amps, 8+/- regular guitars, Kawai baby grand, two cats...
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Fred Treece

California, USA
Post Posted 12 Mar 2017 3:25 pm     Reply with quote

Stephen Rethmeier wrote:
this forum and its members have been an important part of my journey, and I thank all of you for the contributions you've made.

Ditto that.
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Bill Moran

Virginia, USA
Post Posted 12 Mar 2017 5:20 pm     Reply with quote

In February 72 a little band I was in got a gig with the USO in Cuba. 18 days, air force transported us and we had a barracks with a bus and driver. On short notice we picked up a steel player to go along. After 18 days I was bitten. At the time I was a guitar player .I picked up a couple steels in the next 8 years . None were any good. A Pepi Joe and a Maverick. In 1980 I got my hands on a LDG. Couldn't quit after that. Not until 2012 when I had my last heart surgery. I still have my guitar but seldom turn it on.

HWP Mullen, Evans, Music Man, MX, Walker seat, L120 , BB , Izzy, Wet Reverb, BJS, B9, Wampler tape delay,Glock 23.
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Keenan Friday

Magnolia, Arkansas, USA
Post Posted 15 Mar 2017 3:45 pm     Reply with quote

In one sentence...

I heard hal ruggs playing
Keenan Friday
Mullen Pre Royal D-10, Walker Stereo Steel, Hilton pedal, George L cables, Livesteel Strings, (White) Fred Kelly thumbpick, Dunlop .025 fingerpicks
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Mark Eaton

Sonoma County in The Great State Of Northern California
Post Posted 15 Mar 2017 5:11 pm     Reply with quote

"slowly" Winking
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Dustin Rigsby

Parts Unknown, Ohio
Post Posted 16 Mar 2017 5:07 am     A condensed version Reply with quote

I had played guitar in hard rock bands since my early teens. By the time I hit my late 20's/early 30's I was done with it. I met a steel player at work who practically dared me to take up psg, said I'd never get bored with it. He invited me to a gospel steel show put on by another steel player from my hometown. This show featured a few big names, one being Bobbe Seymour, who cracked me up with his b.s. and dazzled me with his brilliance! I was hooked ! Another forumite hooked me up with a deal on a barely used carter starter and a Goodrich volume pedal for $500.00 . Which was the right price because that's all I had to spend....I had been saving up for something else....pedal steel can be an expensive hobby. Some of these cats own several desirable guitars....I don't know where they get the dough..... I buy everything on the cheap.
D.S. Rigsby
W.W.L.G.D. ?
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