Steel Guitar


Jerry Byrd's Guitar Magic Jerry Byrd's Guitar Magic

Steel-guitar music generally comes in two flavors: that of the originators, the Hawaiians, and that of the adoptors, country-western musicians. The steel guitar did develop from the dobro, however, and that wholly American instrument should get credit for the basic "steel" sound. Since Hawaiian steel is more ingrained in Hawaiian music (covered on other pages), this page is devoted mainly to the major luminaries and lesser lights of country-western records. The instrument itself is similar to slide guitar and the dobro, where metal in contact with the strings makes a new sound. The principal advantage of steel guitar is "sustain" (lingering tones) which give its sound a "crying" quality: the perfect drone to weep into your beer by. Add to the basic guitar-plus-metal combination such modern developments as pedal controls, and you have at hand (and feet) all manner of expressive chords and tones, as with a Hammond organ.

Although the different types of instrument (lap or pedal steel) and such specificity as "Nashville steel guitar" hint at broad development, for critical mass one really need look no further than old Starday (Starday-King) records. Every great player passed through Starday, and the label issued many first-rate LPs and compilations dedicated to instrumental steel guitar. One such player was Pete Drake, who incidentally came up with a "vocal" steel guitar. As with the earlier Sonovox, Pete Drake's "talking steel guitar" was really just an effect that, when applied to normal speech or singing, made it sound as though the steel guitar had come to life.

The major labels had some of the biggest names, particularly Jerry Byrd on Mercury, as well as others, such as Speedy West in the Capitol stable (a.k.a. "Speedy Western" when recording for Starday). There were plenty of regular guitar players who either switched to steel for just a few tracks or made the odd steel-guitar album. And of course in the classic age of country music, dobro or steel guitar was heard in the background wherever country-western music was played.

Buddy Emmons, musician as well as manufacturer of steel guitars, developed a marvelous hybridization of steel guitar and jazz. In later years several artists would adapt soul, funk, rock, and gospel to the instrument. Any music with a basis in blues proved a natural fit for the steel guitar. Blues itself, of course, was in there all along from the very first, as steel guitar became developed for country music. Finally, the other half of country-western is western, and the steel guitar plays a role in creating the "high lonesome sound" of the dusty trail rider. The unhousebroken sagebrush critters of Western Swing, such as Spade Cooley and Bob Wills, yielded a few star steel players, such as Jimmy Day and Leon McAuliffe.

Buying: Vintage steel guitar records are highly desired for their tonal qualities (analog vinyl originals only, please), and demand exceeds supply in nearly every case. Some are quite rare. But, on the bright side, inflation always has a hard time getting anywhere with old country music. So get them wherever and while you still can.



Steel-Guitar (& Dobro) LPs

Rating
7Jim Baker: A Steel Guitar Christmas; Starday-King/Gusto/Power-Pak LP-PO-506
7Zane Beck & Julian Tharpe: 12+14=Country Jazz; Cat CAT-001 (steel guitar; disco-funk cover of KC & Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty")
6Jerry Byrd: On the Shores of Waikiki; MG-20230
7Jerry Byrd: Steel Guitar Favorites; Mercury MG-20345; 1957
6Jerry Byrd: The Man of Steel; Mercury SR-60932/MG-20932; 1957
5Jerry Byrd: Hawaiian Beach Party; RCA LPM-1687; 1958
7Jerry Byrd: Blue Hawaiian Steel Guitar; Mercury SRW-60856
6Jerry Byrd: Byrd of Paradise; Monument SLP-14003/MLP-4003; 1961 (stereo has different jacket)
7Jerry Byrd: Admirable Byrd; Monument MLP-8014
6Jerry Byrd: Memories of Maria; Monument SLP-14008/MLP-4008; 1962 (reissued as Satin Strings of Steel; SLP-18033)
6Jerry Byrd: Burning Sands, Pearly Shells & Steel Guitars; Monument SLP-18081; 1967
6Jerry Byrd: The Polynesian Suite; Monument SLP-18107; 1968
8Jerry Byrd: Steel Guitar Hawaiian Style; Lehua SL-7023; 1976 (with Benny Kalama; plays early steel guitars!)
Jerry Byrd: Byrd in Hawaii; Maple MA-1002 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 2")
Cecil Campbell & his Tennessee Ramblers: Steel Guitar Jamboree; Starday SLP-254
7The Exciting Steel Guitar of Curly Chalker: Big Hits on Big Steel; Columbia CS-9396/CL-2596
7Curly Chalker: More Ways to Play; Midland MD-1003; 1974 (steel-guitar; partly steel-guitar funk & jazz)
6Phil Corso & the Maui Islanders: Weekend in Hawaii; Glo GLP-656 (steel guitar by Connecticut player; w/Irene Kuepo, Jack Wright)
7Jimmy Day: Golden Steel Guitar Hits; Philips PHS-600-016/PHM-200-016; 1962
Pete Drake: The Fabulous Steel Guitar Sound of Pete Drake; Starday SLP-180
7Pete Drake: The Amazing & Incredible Pete Drake; Starday SLP-319 (w/voice)
6Pete Drake & his Talking Steel Guitar: Forever; Smash SRS-67053/MGS-27053 (w/voice)
6Pete Drake: Talking Steel Guitar; Smash SRS-67060/MGS-27060 (w/voice)
4Pete Drake: Talking Steel Guitar & Singing Strings; Smash SRS-67064/MGS-27064 (vocal pop)
5Pete Drake & his Talking Guitar; Mountain Dew S-7042; 1967 (w/voice)
7The Electratones: Guitar Bossa Nova; Tico/Gone SLP-7005 (steel guitar with one steel-guitar jazz cut)
5Buddie Emmons: Steel Guitar Album; Flying Fish 007; 1975
Buddy Emmons: Mid-Land Records International Steel Guitar Convention Presents Buddy Emmons, Volume 1; ISGC-1; 1977 (live steel-guitar jazz)
8Buddy Emmons: Mid-Land Records International Steel Guitar Convention Presents Buddy Emmons, Volume 2; ISGC-2; 1977
8Neil Flanz: Star Route; Arc 634 (Canadian; Emmons stereo pedal steel guitar)
8Paul Franklin [Just Pickin']; Midland MD-29; 1979 (steel-guitar jazz & rock
9Sonny Garrish: Country Soul Stew; Steel Guitar Record Club No. 7; 1976/1975 (partly steel-guitar funk/funky rock/breakbeats)
7Lloyd Green & his Steel Guitar: Day for Decision; Little Darlin' SLD-8002/LD-4002; 1966
7Lloyd Green: The Big Steel Guitar; Time S-2152/52152; 1964 (w/Charlie McCoy, Harold Bradley, Fred Carter, Kelso Herston--arr.)
7The Hawaiians: From the Famous Beach Hotel; London/Deram DES-18015 (steel guitar/mod/exotic rock)
6Basil Henriques & the Waikiki Islanders: Shades of Hawaii; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-177; 1967
Shot Jackson: The Singing Strings of Steel Guitar & Dobro; Starday SLP-230
Shot Jackson & Buddy Emmons; Starday/Nashville NLP-2026 (budget reissue of Starday)
8Shot Jackson & Jeff Newman; Mother's Favorite Tunes; Harvester 581-582 (steel/dobro/gospel/Christmas)
Shot Jackson/David Musgrave/Paul Buskirk: Dobro, Shobro, & Steel; Stoneway STY-144
7Doug Jernigan; Diggin' Doug Jernigan Uptown to Country; Emmons ELP-1002 (steel guitar/steel-guitar jazz)
8Neil Livingston: Pedal Steel Guitar Excellence; Excel EX-1 (steel guitar with one funky steel-guitar cut, "Ode to Billy Joe")
6Leon McAuliff (sic) & his Western Swingers: Country "Just a Minute!"; SESAC Recordings PA-225/226 (western swing/partly featuring steel; 16 cuts approximately 1 minute each)
Leon McAuliffe: Mister Western Swing; Starday SLP-171
6Leon McAuliffe & his Swingin' Western Band: The Dancin'est Band Around; Capitol ST-2016
8Leon McAuliffe & his Swingin' Western Band: Everybody Dance! Everybody Swing!; Capitol ST-2148
7Leon McAuliffe: Steel Guitar Rag; Delta DLP-1154; 1982/? (ES reissue of early mono recordings)
8Leon McAuliffe & his Western Swing Band; CBS/Columbia Historic Edition FC-38908; 1984 (5/10 cuts reissued)
Leon McAuliffe: Take it Away, Leon; Stoneway STY-139
Leon McAuliffe/Bob Wills/Tommy Duncan: San Antonio Rose/Steel Guitar Rag; Starday SLP-375
Billy Mure (Hawaiian LPs) -- see guitar
6The Music City Sounds, featuring Lloyd Green & Pete Wade; MGM SE-4672 (steel-guitar country)
7Herbie Remington: Steel Guitar Holiday; United Artists UAS-6167
7Herbie Remington & his Steel Guitar: Remington Rides Again; Pickwick/Hilltop JS-6020/JM-6020
Herb Remington: Pure Remington Steel; Stoneway STY-138
6Herb Remington: Boot Heel Drag; Stoneway STY-162; 1976
6Alvino Rey: A Drowsy Old Riff; Golden Era 15002 (compilation of 1940s material)
6Alvino Rey: The Uncollected 1946 (Vol. 1); Hindsight HSR-121; 1978
6Alvino Rey: The Uncollected (Vol. 2); Hindsight
6Alvino Rey: The Uncollected 1940-41 (Vol. 3)--Vocals: The King Sisters; Hindsight HSR-196; 1983
7Alvino Rey: Swingin' Fling; Capitol ST-1085
7Alvino Rey: Ping Pong; Capitol ST-1262
4Alvino Rey: That Lonely Feeling; Capitol ST-1395
3Alvino Rey w/Ralph Carmichael Orchestra: Refreshing Melodies; Sacred LPS-76002; 1966
6Alvino Rey: Dance with Me--The Big Band Sound of Alvino Rey; Alysa R-1000; 1980
6Red Rhodes: Steel Guitar Rag & Other Country & Western Favorites; Crown CST-555 (steel)
6Kayton Roberts is Steelin'; Stoneway STY-111
Kayton & Iva Lee Roberts; Stoneway STY-156
6Kayton Roberts & Little Roy Wiggins: Twin Steel Guitars; Stoneway STY-129; 1973
8Freddie Roulette: Sweet Funky Steel; GRT/Janus JLS-3053; 1973 (soul-jazz steel guitar)
[earlier Santo & Johnny]
5Santo & Johnny: The Brilliant Guitar Sounds of; Liberty/Imperial LP-12363 (steel/mod)
5Santo & Johnny: Golden Guitars; Liberty/Imperial LP-12366 (steel/mod)
5Santo & Johnny: On the Road Again; Liberty/Imperial LP-12418 (steel/mod)
6Santo & Johnny: The Best That Could Happen; Liberty/Imperial LP-12435 (steel/mod arr. & cond. Mort Garson)
6Roy Smeck: Difting & Dreaming 10"; Coral 56013
7The Ames Brothers w/Roy Smeck & the Serenaders: Sweet Leilani--A Collection of Hawaiian Favorites 10"; Coral 56042
6Roy Smeck & his Paradise Islanders: Memory Lane 10"; Decca DL-5458; copyright 1953
6Roy Smeck & his Paradise Islanders: Songs of the Range [in Dreamy Hawaiian Style] 10"; Decca DL-5473; copyright 1953
6Roy Smeck & his Serenaders: Memories of You; Decca DL-8674 (mono only)
5Roy Smeck & his Paradise Serenaders: South Seas Serenade; ABC-Paramount ABC-119
6Roy Smeck & his Paradise Serenaders: Melodies with Memories; ABC-Paramount ABC-174
5Roy Smeck & his Paradise Serenaders: Hi-Fi Paradise; ABC-Paramount ABCS-234
7Roy Smeck & his Paradise Serenaders: Hawaiian Guitar Hits; Kapp KS-1491 (steel guitar)
7Roy Smeck: Wizard of the Strings; Blue Goose BG-2027; 1980/1979
8Frank Sorrell [& his 4 Guitars]: The Magic Sounds of Frank Sorrell; Coral CRL-757324 (steel guitar & other guitar)
7Wout Steenhuis: Blue Hawaii; Regal/EMI Starline SRS-5005; 1964 (w/a couple of hula-jazz cuts)
6Wout Steenhuis: Paradise Island; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-116; 1966
6Wout Steenhuis: Guitars for Girl Friday; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-156; 1967
6Wout Steenhuis & the KonTikis: Pacific Paradise; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-357; 1971
7Julian Tharpe: The Jet Age; Midland ML-JT-1001 (steel guitar, partly funky)
8Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant: Two Guitars Country Style; Capitol T-520
7Speedy West: West of Hawaii; Capitol T-956 (w/Sam Koki & the Seven Seas Serenaders, featuring Sylvia Zara)
8Speedy West: Steel Guitar; Capitol T-1341
9Speedy West: Guitar Spectacular; Capitol ST-1835 (w/Billy Strange, Earl Palmer..)
7Little Roy Wiggins: Mister Steel Guitar; Starday SLP-188
7Little Roy Wiggins: The Fabulous Steel Guitar Artistry of Little Roy Wiggins; Starday SLP-259 (Hawaiian songs!)
6Little Roy Wiggins: 18 All-Time Hits; Starday SLP-392
7Little Roy Wiggins: Songs I Played for Eddy Arnold; Diplomat DS-2615
7Little Roy Wiggins: Memory Time; Stop SLP-1033; 1972
6Winnie Winston: Steel Wool; Philo PH-1058; 1976
6Bill Wolfgramme & his Islanders: Hawaiian Sunset; Fiesta FLPS-1687 (US import from New Zealand's Viking)
6Bill Wolfgramme & his Islanders: Sounds of Hawaii; Fiesta FLPS-1701 (US import from New Zealand's Viking)
8Nani Wolfgramm & his Islanders: Polynesian Love Song; Fiesta FLPS-1782 (US import from New Zealand's Viking)
6Nani Wolfgramme & the South Pacific Strings: Hawaiian Cocktail; Fiesta FLPS-1886; 1980 (US import from New Zealand's Viking)
Nani Wolfgramm & his Islanders: 20 Golden Hits of Hawaii; Monitor MFS-804 (probably from New Zealand's Viking)
Nani Wolfgramm & his Islanders: The Sound of Hawaii; Monitor MFS-819 (probably from New Zealand's Viking)
8Nani Wolfgramm & his Islanders: Polynesian Girl; Monitor MFS-826; 1986 (probably from New Zealand's Viking)
8Uncredited: Steel Guitar Favorites; Oscar OS-146 (with breakbeats)
9Various: Hawaiian Steel Guitar--1920s to 1950s; Arhoolie/Folklyric 9009; 1976 (15 top cuts by Byrd, Smeck, Hawaiian, mainlanders)
8Various: Kings of the Steel Guitar; Design SDLP-627 (Jerry Byrd, Jenks Carmen, Leon McAuliffe, Herb Remington, Pete Wade)
7Various: Nashville Steel Guitar; Starday SLP-138 (Jimmy Day, Pete Drake, Don Helms, Herbie Remington, Little Roy Wiggins..; Nashville NLP-2017)
9Various: Stars of the Steel Guitar; Starday SLP-350
9Various: Steel Guitar & Dobro Spectacular!; Starday SLP-293 (14 cuts)
8Various: That Dobro Sound's Goin' Round; Starday SLP-340 (14 cuts; Uncle Josh, Hoss Linneman, Bashful Brother Oswald, Shot Jackson, Deacon Brumfield)
8Various: The Steel Guitar Hall of Fame; Starday SLP-233 (14 cuts; w/10 cuts as Nashville NLP-2055; Jerry Byrd, Deacon Brumfield, Jimmy Day, Pete Drake, Buddy Emmons, Don Helms, Shot Jackson, Cousin Jody, Leon McAuliffe, Bashful Brother Oswald, Herbie Remington, Speedy West, Little Roy Wiggins)
7Various: Unforgettable Country Instrumentals; Starday SLP-277 (mainly steel & dobro w/some guitar & fiddle)


Maple-label Steel-Guitar LPs

Rating
7Ken Ufton & his Harmony Hawaiians with Ohulani & the Crosstowners: Maui Magic; Maple MA-1000 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 1" -- number later listed as MA-1001)
Jerry Byrd: Byrd in Hawaii; Maple MA-1002 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 2")
7Rudy Wairata with his Mena Moeria Minstrels: Lovely Hula Girl; Maple MA-1003 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 3")
7Hawaii's Own David Kelii--The Supreme Genius of the Steel Guitar; Maple MA-1004 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 4"; notes by Jerry Byrd)
Uncle Tom Alexander: [title unknown]; Maple MA-1005 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 5")
Mike "Malihini" Scott: [title unknown]; Maple MA-1006 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 6")
8Jess Hurt: Steel Guitar My Way; Maple MA-1007; 1980 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 7"--notes by Speedy West)
Pua Almeida: [title unknown]; Maple MA-1008 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 8")
7Coy Pereira with the Kilima Hawaiians; Maple MA-1009; 1981 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 9")
Pale K. Lua & Ben Hokea: [title unknown]; Maple MA-1010; 1981 (Canada; "Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 10")
7Sonny Kamahele & Mel Abe: Beautiful Hawaiian Steel Guitar; Maple MA-1001; 1981 (Sweet Sweet Steel Guitar Series No. 11")


[Pop] Steel-Guitar 45s

Rating
7Jerry Byrd: Hi-Fi Guitar; Decca ED-2558 (The One Rose, La Cumparsita, Slippery Elm, La Golondrina)
8Billy C. Cole: Old Truckers Never Die (They Just Keep On Truckin')/Everlovin' Baby; Wilber 101 (trucker/rockabilly; Pete Drake produced, on steel guitar)
7Hearld Davis & his Steel Guitar: Danny Boy/Pulling Strings; Rimrock RS-242
9Jackie & Tut: 10-2 Double Plus/Hawaiian Punch; Chess 2008 (steel funk)
6Reg Owen & his Orchestra: The Hula Twist/Swing-A-Ling-Ling; Palette PZ-5086 (steel guitar)
6Little Roy Wiggins [with the Carole Lee Singers]: What Makes My Steel Guitar Cry/Just Plain Country; O'Brien OB-321; 1980
6Little Roy Wiggins & his Steel Guitar: Filipino Baby/The Ting-a-Ling Waltz; O'Brien OB-331


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