Hank Penny’s first recording session for King Records took place at the Wurlitzer Music Company in Cincinnati sometime mid-1944. Roy Lanham – pioneering guitarist who was too “hillbilly” for the jazz crowd and too “jazzy” for country fans – would play on this session, as well as Louis Innis, it’s worth noting. Penny’s next session for King would be recorded in Hollywood a year later and yield five songs – including “Steel Guitar Stomp”:
“Steel Guitar Stomp” Hank Penny (featuring Noel Boggs & Merle Travis) 1945
Penny’s steel guitarist, Noel Boggs would soon get the call up from legendary bandleader, Bob Wills and then later, Spade Cooley. This “Dean of the Steel Guitar,” according to Brad’s Pages of Steel, “appeared on some 2,000 recordings as a soloist, with Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, Jimmy Wakely, Hank Penny, Bill Boyd, Sheb Wooley, Les Anderson, Merle Travis and the Cass County Boys.” Boggs, backed by the Day Sleepers, would go on to release a couple singles on almighty Columbia under his own name, as well as a couple recordings as “The Noel Boggs Quintet” on the Shasta label.
Check out all the cool sounds that Noel Boggs coaxes out of his (pre-pedal) steel guitar in this driving version of “Alabamy Bound”:
Extra Credit: Name That Guitar
Q: What guitar is Noel Boggs playing in this clip of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys ‘performing’ the song “Ida Red” in the 1945 western talkie, Blazing the Western Trail — that’s the question posed a few years back on the Steel Guitar Forum.
Answer: Epiphone “Rocco” 7/8-string doubleneck steel guitar – thanks to Jody Carver (of Hot Club of America fame) for providing an autographed photo of this impressive and stylish guitar being held by its namesake, Anthony Rocco, about which too little is known. Says Mark Heller, “Rocco was one of the earliest electric steel guitar players, and he carved out a career for himself in the New York City area, playing Hawaiian-style steel guitar with big bands and orchestras around the city. In addition, Rocco befriended Epi Stathopoulo, who manufactured Epiphone guitars, and Rocco came on board as advisor to the company. Based on Rocco’s designs and inventions, Epiphone began manufacturing a whole line of Rocco devices in 1937, including a Rocco double-neck steel guitar, a Rocco signature steel bar, and the innovative Rocco Tonexpressor, a combination volume and tone pedal.”