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Author Topic:  Being Ben Keith
Neal Vosberg


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post  Posted 26 Jun 2018 2:12 pm    
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When I played six string regularly, my main inspirations were players like Reggie Young, Joe South. Guys that just play the perfect thing at the right time. The steel player that most aligns with that philosophy, in my opinion, has to be Ben Keith. I've spent a lot of time trying to play in his same style, knowing that he was "limited" to a 3x1 steel.

I've found the importance of tone. So important. Tone and volume. Once those are established you can approach songs simply and effectively. If your tone is sour, it doesn't matter how perfect your part is.

Lots of single string licks, or just things as simple as the B pedal on the third string, on the third fret, and only that, to play over a C. Also navigating the melody on 4&6 with the B and C pedals. I know he didn't use it, but using the E->F lever with 4&6 can give you a lot, as well as the E lower, which he did have.

Thats all I've got for now!
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Ray Minich


From:
Bradford, Pa. Frozen Tundra
Post  Posted 28 Jun 2018 1:22 pm    
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I believe he did the steel on Patsy Cline's "I fall to pieces". One of my all time favorites. Nice harmonics at just the right time too.
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Henry Nagle


From:
Santa Rosa, California
Post  Posted 28 Jun 2018 8:41 pm    
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He's one of my absolute favorites too. When I first started playing steel his playing was one of my main inspirations.

He was such a minimalist. On the chorus of Out On A Weekend he keeps hitting just that one note, and it's so perfect. It drives the song forward so well. That's a rare gift.

It's funny to me that my other favorite is Ralph Mooney, who was one of those very rare players who could play and phrase throughout an entire song and have it all somehow fit just right.

Two completely different approaches, but both of them brilliant. Of course, the context is key too.
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Jeremy Threlfall


From:
now in Western Australia
Post  Posted 2 Jul 2018 5:52 pm    
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I am Ben Keith in a popular Neil Young tribute show ("The Human Highway") in Australia. I play steel and guitar parts

BKs steel parts are much harder to get sounding right than they appear to be on paper

I would say he is one of the masters of touch
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Jonathan Shacklock


From:
London, UK
Post  Posted 4 Jul 2018 8:50 am    
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For a short time I was a tribute 'Ben Keith' too, and yes I totally agree, very difficult to get the magic pitch and tone. This one was my favourite to play but I definitely miss some pitches and tones here and there, sorry! https://youtu.be/5nodXEb4Nrk

I tried to learn most things by rote. I found if I just jammed along in the standard positions it didn't sound right. Everything he played seemed like a perfectly orchestrated part, perfectly placed in the music. And yet so often Neil Young's recordings are almost entirely off the cuff. Ben had a great ear and a wonderful instinct for music.


Last edited by Jonathan Shacklock on 6 Jul 2018 10:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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Jeremy Threlfall


From:
now in Western Australia
Post  Posted 5 Jul 2018 6:16 pm    
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Sounds to me like you've got it all there and sounding right, real nice playing. That's a great rendition of BK doing his thing, well done

great band name too
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Jonathan Shacklock


From:
London, UK
Post  Posted 6 Jul 2018 10:37 am    
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Thanks Jeremy, you're too kind, unfortunately that band bit the dust very quickly. As you know it's a lot of fun trying to chase down Ben Keith's sound, I'd recommend every player try out at least one of his songs and really try to nail al the nuances. I only wish I could remember half of the things I learned!
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scott murray


From:
Asheville, NC
Post  Posted 11 Jul 2018 6:22 pm    
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just stumbled on this KILLER footage of Ben Keith with Faron Young... wow

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7C39atFn1I
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Fish


Post  Posted 12 Jul 2018 6:39 pm    
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This footage of Faron Young with Ben Keith on his early Sho~Bud is really remarkable. What great playing on both E9th and C6th tunings.

This reminds me of something Buddy Emmons says in his memoirs:
"It was Jimmy [Day], Ben Keith, and myself who used to stay up for days and nights and carve all the early licks out while the other steel players slept."

His friends know that Buddy was never much for boasting or tootin' his horn. This quote is out of the ordinary for him, but it captures the spirit of another era, when he liked to say he was "22 and bullet proof."
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Barry Blackwood


Post  Posted 13 Jul 2018 7:53 am    
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Great footage that exemplifies the "spirit of another era" mentioned earlier. Ben sat high at the steel and by the way he's rocking his foot, it looks like he had the Day setup on the money neck. Also, a curled finger grip similar to Jay Dee. I wonder whatever happened to the guitar he was playing....
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John Brabant


From:
Calais, VT, USA
Post  Posted 3 Aug 2018 6:12 pm    
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Wow amazing video of Big Ben as a young and handsome dude. I never heard him play like that. Neil Flanz has a few stories about those days when Ben, Buddy and Jimmy were all living together. Musta been quite the scene. Such innovators. Reminds me of the Sam Bush/Jerry Douglas/Bela Fleck bunch back in their wild and crazy, developmental days.
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Stephen Pride


From:
Berkeley, CA
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2019 9:50 am    
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I was going to start a new thread about Ben Keith, but found this one after searching through the archives and decided to bump it instead. I am also a huge fan of his work, and have it as my goal on pedal steel to someday sound 1/10th as good as him.

I've started a playlist on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1Z5oCKk9CfCtQL0rMyMVgJ?si=7vsXLca5S9mqfvgusyRcjQ

It can be a bit tricky to track things down. The Discogs site has been helpful, since a lot of detailed album credits are listed there. But please let me know if you have any suggestions of more things to add. I'm interested in keeping this to his pedal steel work only, so please no suggestions for things where he played dobro or lap steel, etc.

In particular, let me know if you have any details about his work with Faron Young. All the albums I can find on Discogs and AllMusic don't show up on Spotify, and vice-versa, so I'm pretty lost there.

For anyone who's not on Spotify but is still curious to see the list, here are some screen caps:





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Last edited by Stephen Pride on 14 Sep 2019 10:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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Joachim Kettner


From:
Germany
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2019 10:14 am    
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Stephen, on the Bird On The Wire record it was not Ben but Bill Keith, I know because I have the LP.
There's a recently released record by Neil Young called "Tuscaloosa".
And a record by a Dan Sampson on which he played on one title. It's not on U-tube.
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Stephen Pride


From:
Berkeley, CA
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2019 10:25 am    
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Thanks Joachim, I see you are correct about the Tim Hardin. Discogs lists Ben Keith as the steel player, but they also have the back cover available as an image, and when I zoom in, it does indeed say Bill Keith. I'll remove that one from the playlist.

Good tip on the Neil Young Tuscaloosa, I'll go through that one and add anything where I hear him, thanks.

Dan Sampson doesn't seem to be on Spotify either, so unfortunately I can't add that one.
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Chris Bauer


From:
Nashville, TN USA
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2019 3:34 pm    
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From the Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville where there’s a nice tribute to Ben along with his Push/Push S10 that we’ve all heard and loved.

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Bill Cunningham


From:
Atlanta, Ga. USA
Post  Posted 6 Sep 2019 6:07 pm    
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Fish wrote:
This footage of Faron Young with Ben Keith on his early Sho~Bud is really remarkable. What great playing on both E9th and C6th tunings.

This reminds me of something Buddy Emmons says in his memoirs:
"It was Jimmy [Day], Ben Keith, and myself who used to stay up for days and nights and carve all the early licks out while the other steel players slept."

His friends know that Buddy was never much for boasting or tootin' his horn. This quote is out of the ordinary for him, but it captures the spirit of another era, when he liked to say he was "22 and bullet proof."


I have a Darrell McCall box set with a lot of tunes from that era that Ben is on. Good stuff!
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Bill Cunningham
Atlanta, GA
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John Brabant


From:
Calais, VT, USA
Post  Posted 8 Sep 2019 5:19 am    
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Stephen:

I am listening to your Ben Keith playlist on Spotify now over my Sunday morning coffee. Lot's of memories packed in there. Thank you. May I suggest that you add to your list Neil Young's " Hey Babe" which is on his late 70s album "American Stars and Bars". I was new to steel in 1979 and bought that album just because of the steel in that song. Simple but soooo nice!
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David Mitchell


From:
Tyler, Texas
Post  Posted 8 Sep 2019 10:26 am    
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I played the part of Ben Keith on this Patsy Cline classic. I played all the instruments for that matter. Fun little album we did of old songs just me and my friend Sandy a flight attendant not a professional singer. Ben played a rather unique and haunting part on this song. Maybe it was his first hit. I remember when it was a brand new song on the radio. I was already playing by then. Shocked to read about her death in the morning paper.

https://youtu.be/7j_VzYN37bg
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Zachary Smith


From:
New Jersey, USA
Post  Posted 9 Sep 2019 5:04 am    
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If you want to hear some real good Ben Keith playing check out the album A Treasure by Neil Young and the International Harvesters. It is on Spotify but not under Neil Young for some reason. It’s the most straight country thing I’ve heard Neil Young do and Ben Keith plays pedal steel on every track.
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Stephen Pride


From:
Berkeley, CA
Post  Posted 9 Sep 2019 8:25 am    
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John Brabant wrote:
Stephen:

I am listening to your Ben Keith playlist on Spotify now over my Sunday morning coffee. Lot's of memories packed in there. Thank you. May I suggest that you add to your list Neil Young's " Hey Babe" which is on his late 70s album "American Stars and Bars". I was new to steel in 1979 and bought that album just because of the steel in that song. Simple but soooo nice!


Hi John, I am delighted to know that you're enjoying the playlist. I added "Hey Babe," and you're right, that's a wonderful pedal steel part. Thanks for the tip!

I also added everything from the Neil Young live at Tuscaloosa album where I hear pedal steel. And I'm going to check through that International Harvester stuff, too, thanks for pointing that out Zachary. The Wikipedia page for that album says Ben Keith played pedal steel, lap slide, and "stringman." For every track where I am sure I'm hearing pedal steel, I'll add it to the playlist.

Anyone out there think they can identify Faron Young tracks on Spotify where BK is playing pedal steel?
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James Mayer


From:
back in Portland Oregon, USA (via Arkansas and London, UK)
Post  Posted 9 Sep 2019 1:09 pm    
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Thanks for creating that playlist. I subscribed and listened to it over the weekend. Hoping to see it grow.
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Marc Jenkins


From:
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Post  Posted 9 Sep 2019 1:17 pm    
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Yes thanks for the playlist! I think both Alabama and Words should be included - minimalist parts but two of my faves!
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Frank Freniere


From:
The First Coast
Post  Posted 9 Sep 2019 1:17 pm    
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David Mitchell wrote:
I played the part of Ben Keith on this Patsy Cline classic. I played all the instruments for that matter. Fun little album we did of old songs just me and my friend Sandy a flight attendant not a professional singer. Ben played a rather unique and haunting part on this song. Maybe it was his first hit. I remember when it was a brand new song on the radio. I was already playing by then. Shocked to read about her death in the morning paper.

https://youtu.be/7j_VzYN37bg


Ben played on a lot of Patsy Cline releases. "Loving in Vain" is a good one.
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Jim Pitman


From:
Waterbury Ctr. VT 05677 USA
Post  Posted 10 Sep 2019 2:23 am    
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I love Ben's choice of seating in that Faron Young video. If I could fit a barrel in my trunk....... Great player. I think he played on Neil Young's Harvest record. - very ethereal. His simple licks with perfect tone and volume swells became the signature of many of the tunes on that record.
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 11 Sep 2019 7:01 am    
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Frank Freniere wrote:

Ben played on a lot of Patsy Cline releases. "Loving in Vain" is a good one.


Yes, and "Shoes" too. Here's links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3C6i54ua1c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP2P8fCOnMI

I really like that old 1950s and 1960s pedal steel work, the style that was popular before everything became gobs of pedals and knee levers, and tricky moves that mostly impress only other pedal steelers. That stuff was simple and basic, but terribly expressive. Somewhere along, we lost sight of those qualities.
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