Zero to Infinity: Buddy Emmons

This week we said goodbye to Buddy Emmons, one of the world’s great musicians — and the subject of three prior Zero to 180 pieces.  Here is but a 45-second demonstration of Buddy Emmons’ singular genius with the pedal steel guitar:

“Four Wheel Drive” (live)     Buddy Emmons     1965

[*Earnestly hoping this amazing live video clip will once again be posted on YouTube]

It is a little distressing to see that 45Cat and Discogs.com (and YouTube) do not include any of the 45s Buddy Emmons recorded in the 1950s for almighty Columbia, nor his one outstanding 1960 single for Decca, “Blue Wind” b/w “Four Wheel Drive.”  This gaping historical hole is in stark contrast to the high regard in which Emmons is widely held:

“… world’s foremost steel guitarist” (Rolling Stone)
“… steel guitar innovator” (The Tennessean)
“… fabled steel guitarist” (CMT)
“… influential pedal steel guitarist” (Reuters)

How cool that my all-time favorite steel guitarist (Emmons) played with my favorite group (NRBQ) and guitarist (Duane Eddy).  Steel Guitar Forum, no surprise, already has a thread devoted to Buddy’s memory, while Edd Hurt writes a nice tribute to Emmons in  The Nashville Scene that talks about some of Buddy’s pedal steel technical innovations as co-founder, along with Shot Jackson, of Sho-Bud Guitars.

Buddy Emmons-aBuddy Emmons-bBuddy Emmons-c

Two essential/must-have Buddy Emmons recordings – The Buddy Emmons Collection & Redneck Jazz Explosion – I’ve noticed are both commanding high prices on Amazon, unfortunately.

Buddy Emmons-1Buddy Emmons-2

Steel Guitar Great Buddy Emmons Dies
Pedal steel player backed up artists from Ernest Tubb to Linda Rondstat
By Stephen L. Betts – Rolling Stone – July 30, 2015

Musician Buddy Emmons, widely regarded as the world’s foremost steel guitarist, hailed for his unique playing style and innovations with regard to tuning, has died at age 78.

Born Buddie Gene Emmons in Mishawaka, Indiana, and nicknamed “the Big E,” his guitar work was heard on countless recordings by acts ranging from Ray Price and Ernest Tubb, to Linda Ronstadt and the Carpenters.

At 11 years old, Emmons studied on lap steel guitar at the Hawaiian Conservatory of Music in South Bend, Indiana, learning to play country music by listening to the radio.  As a teenager, he joined his first bands, relocating to Illinois then to Detroit, before moving to Nashville in 1955 to join Grand Ole Opry star Little Jimmy Dickens’ band at 18 years old. Christened the Country Boys, Dickens’ band recorded several instrumentals, including three of Emmons’ original compositions.  After Dickens dissolved his band in 1956, Emmons and fellow guitarist Shot Jackson formed the Sho-Bud Company, which designed and built steel guitars.  Emmons also began extensive Nashville studio work, and joined Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours the following year, remaining with Tubb until 1958.

Four years later, Emmons became a member of Ray Price’s band the Cherokee Cowboys.  By 1967, he was living in California, and after joining Roger Miller’s band, landed more high-profile studio work in Los Angeles, appearing on records by Nancy Sinatra, Gram Parsons, John Sebastian and others.

A 1974 return to Nashville continued his studio work, on LPs by George Strait, Mel Tillis, Gene Watson, June Carter Cash, Ricky Skaggs and many more.  Emmons was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1981.  He toured with the Everly Brothers in the Nineties and would later be heard occasionally on radio’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Emmons retired in 2007 after the sudden death of his wife Peggy. In 2013, a tribute LP was released.  The Big E: A Salute to Steel Guitarist Buddy Emmons, featured Wllie Nelson, Little Jimmy Dickens, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and several steel players including Randle Currie, from Brad Paisley’s band.  A rare bit of Emmons songwriting, “Are You Sure,” also appears on Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material as a hidden track duet with Willie Nelson.  As the story goes, he and Nelson penned the 1965 song together after a confrontation with a bar patron.

Fellow steel player Steve Fishell, who cites “The Big E” as a chief inspiration and is currently on the road with Emmylou Harris, summed up Emmons’ death to Rolling Stone Country as nothing short of a tragedy:  “It’s a towering loss in the pedal steel community and to music lovers everywhere.”

Highly Selective Discography of Buddy Emmons on Steel Guitar

Nancy Sinatra     Country My Way     1967

Gary Burton     Tennessee Firebird     1967

The Dillards     The Wheatstraw Suite     1968

Judy Collins     “I Pity the Poor Immigrant”     1968

John Phillips     John, The Wolf King of L.A.     1970

Denny Doherty     Watcha Gonna Do     1970

∞ John Sebastian     “Rainbows All Over Your Blues”     1970

Sandy Denny     “Crazy Lady Blues”     1971

Rowan Brothers     Rowan Brothers     1972

Odyssey     Odyssey     1972

Roger McGuinn     “Water Is Wide”     1973

Gram Parsons     GP     1973

Judee Sill     Heart Food     1973

Henry Mancini Orchestra     Country Gentleman     1974

Benny Martin     Tennessee Jubilee     1975

John Hartford     Nobody Knows What You Do     1976

Hargus “Pig” Robbins     Country Instrumentalist of the Year     1977

Ian Tyson     “Turning Thirty”     1978

Ricky Skaggs     Sweet Temptation     1979

Levon Helm     American Son     1980

= k.d. lang     “Shadowland”     1988

Emmons steel guitarsEmmons steel

Photo above courtesy of the Steel Guitar Forum

Joe Maphis Also Had a Double-Neck

Joe Maphis – “The King of the Strings” – was the ace picker of the top-notch house band at the Town Hall Party, a radio and television show filmed in Compton and broadcast over the West Coast airwaves in the 1950s.  The success of the Friday and Saturday night broadcasts led to a Sunday afternoon program, Town Hall Ranch Party, hosted by Tex Ritter.

Joe Maphis [who, you might recall, once witnessed Dave Bunker’s Duo-Lectar up close] really demonstrates his facility for playing stringed instruments on a song that can only be found here – as Tex Ritter points out in his introduction – on the Town Hall Ranch Party:

“Town Hall Boogie”     Joe Maphis & the Ranch Party Gang     1958

What a pleasant surprise to see such a talented steel guitarist with great stage moves, who also happens to be a woman – Marian Hall – as well as a thread on the The Steel Guitar Forum dedicated to “Marian Hall on Joe Maphis’ ‘Town Hall Boogie’.”

In addition to Joe Maphis and Marian Hall, the 10-piece Town Hall Party band would also include Merle Travis (guitar), Billy Hill & Fiddlin’ Kate (violins), Pee Wee Adams (drums), Buddy Dooley (bass), Ray Cline (accordion), and Jimmy Pruett on piano.

“Joe Maphis Guitar” by Ellen – originally posted to Flickr

Joe Maphis doubleneckAs Billboard would report in its July 30, 1955 edition:

“Town Hall Party (NBC and KTTV), Los Angeles, recently opened a new park operation in the Santa Monica Mountains just outside of L.A.  Known as Town Hall Ranch Party, the venture has been getting a big play on Sundays and holidays.  This is in addition to the unit’s regular Friday and Saturday night operations out of Town Hall, Compton, Calif.  The cast includes Tex Ritter, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Travis, Wesley & Marilyn Tuttle, Johnny Bond, Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, Skeets McDonald, The Collins Kids, Mary Jane Johnson, Bonnie Sloan, Mary Lou, Tex Carman, Bobby Charles, Gary Williams, Les (Carrot-Top) Anderson, and Freddie Hart.”

Maphis would also write “Town Hall Rag” and “Town Hall Shuffle,” but alas, “Town Hall Boogie” appears to exist outside of his official recorded canon.

Photo of Marian Hall that accompanied Cindy Cashdollar’s interview

Vintage Guitar Magazine — September 2004 issue

Marian HallMarian Hall:  A Tribute to “The First Lady of the Steel Guitar”

“Marian deserves to be better known for her many accomplishments as a live television pioneer, resourceful and innovative steel guitar soloist, vocalist and songwriter.  Marian became a familiar face on live TV in Los Angeles in the 1950s as part of the Town Hall Party cast along with “superpickers”, Joe Maphis and Merle Travis.  Marian spent time gigging with Tex Ritter’s Ranch Party, Tex Williams band, and even Spade Cooley’s all-girl orchestra.

She was a neighbor and close friend of Paul Bigsby and was one of the few for whom PA would gladly do the chore of changing strings.  Marian played while seated on a high stool with her Bigsby pedal steel raised up on its leg extensions giving the illusion that she was playing while standing.  She had a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor and roared with laughter when she told me how the stool once collapsed on live television yet she somehow finished her solo while lying on her side on the stage.  And play she could: red-hot, yet always tasteful steel runs and bell-like harmonics tumbled out of her amp while she flashed that girl-next-door-smile to the camera.  That she was respected by musicians of the caliber of Travis and Maphis speaks volumes of her abilities.

I’ll remember her as a whip-smart, gracious lady who was modest about her abilities yet quietly proud of her accomplishments and her rightful place in the history of California Country and Western Swing music.  No doubt feeling the same way, last year, the Seattle Western Swing Society inducted Marian into its Hall of Fame.  Not bad for a career that began on live TV at age twelve as one half of the sister duo, The Saddle Sweethearts.  I join Cindy Cashdollar and all who knew her in remembering a great lady. R.I.P. Marian.”

Written by Andy Volk Posted on Steel Guitar Forum in 2006

Photo of Marian Hall courtesy of Dave Schroeder

Hop Wilson’s Steel Guitar Blues

Rolling Stone released two compendiums of Record Reviews in the early 70s, back when Lenny Kaye, John Mendelsohn, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Bud Scoppa, Ed Ward, Richard Meltzer, Al Kooper, Ralph J. Gleason, Paul Gambaccini, Stephen Davis, Jon Landau, Jann Wenner, and (occasionally) Nick Tosches, and even Peter Townshend (Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy album) were writing reviews for the (formerly) underground ‘rock’ publication.  Tip of the hat to Record Review’s Vol. II for pointing out Hop Wilson’s distinctive steel guitar-driven rockin’ blues sound, as on masterpiece, “Chicken Stuff”:

“Chicken Stuff”     Hop Wilson & His Chickens     1958

As Peter Guralnick would write in the Rolling Stone Record Review:

“Especially enterprising but a little further afield is Chicken Stuff:  Houston Ghetto Blues, an English album available on Flyright.  This is made up of six cuts by Hop Wilson from his legendary Ivory sessions and a side of live recordings.  Wilson, one of the few bluemen to master steel guitar, employs a driving bottleneck-style technique which shows traces of Robert Nighthawk and Elmore James.  With his deep brooding voice, stunning guitar work, and the overwhelming power of his blues, he is a singer who deserves much wider recognition.”

Sadly, too few recordings feature Hop Wilson (who also went by “Poppa Hop” and also “Poppy Hop”).  John Broven, thankfully, provides some helpful historical background in South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous

“As word spread that there was a recording studio in Lake Charles, a few blues artists, mainly from Texas, started arriving at Goldband.  Hop Wilson was easily the best.  His first recording, ‘Chicken Stuff’ in 1958, was a startling instrumental that had all the bounce of an old country dance number … At the time Hop was touring Texas and Louisiana with Ivory Semien’s band.  He had a second Goldband release, the stark ‘Broke and Hungry,’ before recording three impressive singles for Ivory Records in the early 60s.”

Goldband’s Eddie Shuler would note how “[“Chicken Stuff”] is unique in the blues field” in that “he played a Hawaiian guitar — six strings of blues soul.”

Hop Wilson & Steel Guitar     1963

Hop Wilson on steel guitarHop WIlson’s soulful steel-based blues sound would set the stage for ground-breaking album, Sweet Funky Steel, released by Freddie Roulette (pictured below), coincidentally enough, around the time of this Rolling Stone Record Review‘s publication (as featured previously on Zero to 180).

Freddie Roulette & pipe

Jeremy Wakefield: SpongeBob’s Stellar Steel Support

Biller & Wakefield sound like a modern-day Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant on 1999 album, The Hot Guitars.of Biller & Wakefield:

“Martian Guts”     Biller & Wakefield     1999

Coincidentally or not, 1999 would also be the year SpongeBob Squarepants would make its television debut.  And just as Los Straitjackets would spearhead a movement to revitalize the instrumental, Jeremy Wakefield – virtuoso musician – would similarly use Nickelodeon’s broad commercial platform to reintroduce the gloriously warm sound of the (pre-pedal) steel guitar to the millennial generation and beyond.   Wakefield, along with the other musicians and SpongeBob Music Director, Andy Paley, have done an outstanding job of incorporating western swing, hillbilly boogie, surf & spy guitar, Hawaiian steel music, and Hot Club-era gypsy jazz into the show’s soundtrack in all manner of ways.

1999 would also find Jeremy Wakefield and Dave Biller playing their respective guitars on Wayne Hancock’s Wild, Free & Reckless album, while Wakefield would peel off that same year to play steel guitar with Smith’s Ranch Boys on More Barnyard Favorites.  The year prior, Wakefield would also play his Bigsby steel guitar on (future Los Straitjackets collaborator) Deke Dickerson & the Ecco-Fonics’ Number One Hit Record!

Wakefield’s musical contributions to the SpongeBob television show have earned him a reputation for upholding an older analog “vintage” sound, thus it is especially intriguing to learn that some of Wakefield’s earliest album credits would include digital keyboard sequencing for The Style Council, of all people, on 1985’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” EP.  Wakefield would continue to work with The Style Council over the next 20 years or so.

other Albums on which Jeremy Wakefield plays steel guitar

  • Wayne Hancock     A-Town Blues     2001
  • The Lucky Stars     Stay Out with The Lucky Stars     2005
  • The Bonebrake Syncopators     That Da Da Strain     2008

Tracks on which Jeremy Wakefield plays steel guitar

“Hawaiian Blues”     music used in 2 episodes “Jellyfish Jam” & “SB-129”

Link to incidental SpongeBob steel guitar music clip posted on YouTube.

Freddie Roulette’s Sweet, Funky Steel

Freddie Roulette coaxes all manner of sweet, funky feeling out of his doubleneck lap steel guitar on the track “Joaquin” from his debut solo album:

“Joaquin”     Freddie Roulette     1973

Steel Guitar:  Freddie Roulette
Bass, Acoustic Guitar:  Victor Conte
Drums:  Paul Lagos
Guitar:  Coleman Head
Saxophone:  Richard Aplanap
Mixed by Fred Breitberg
Produced by Harvey Mandel
Recorded by Baker Bigsby

Prior to Sweet Funky Steel, Roulette had played with Charlie Musselwhite and the Chicago Blue Stars, whose 1969 debut LP kicks off with the “Fred Roulette” composition, “I Need Your Loving.”

Freddie RouletteHow fascinating (and sad) that Freddie Roulette would release his groundbreaking album Sweet Funky Steel in 1973 — and then issue no other recordings for over 20 years.  One gets the sense that this album may have been a bit ahead of its time and had to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

With the release of Psychedelic Guitar Circus (1994), Back in Chicago (1996), Spirit of Steel (1999), Man of Steel (2006) and Jamming with Friends (2012), it would seem that the artist and his audience have, at last, found each other.

Photos of esteemed “guitar client” Freddie Roulette can be found at Berkeley’s renowned Subway Guitars.  Freddie Roulette is on Facebook – hopefully he will one day play at a venue near you.

Sweet Funky Steel LP

It’s True: Noel Boggs Once Played on a King Record

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.

Noel Boggs singleNoel Boggs album

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.”

Anthony Rocco

Lloyd Green: “Mr. Nashville Sound”

When we last checked in with Nashville All-Star and pedal steel guitarist extraordinaire, Lloyd Green, he had signed with Aubrey Mayhew & Johnny Paycheck’s label, Little Darlin’.  However, Green would be ready to switch labels just two years later to go with another indie, Chart.

1968’s Mr. Nashville Sound would be his first of three albums for Chart Records and one that would climb all the way to the #37 position on the Country chart.

Lloyd Green IS Mr. Nashville SoundThe flurry of notes in crisp staccato fashion that open the track “Promises Promises” are characteristic of the late 1960s country steel sound, particularly of the truck-driving variety (“Wave Bye Bye to the Man” – is that you, Lloyd Green?).   I still hold out hope that today’s steel players will rediscover this commanding approach and supremely rocking sound:

“Promises Promises”     Lloyd Green     1968

Steel Guitar:  Lloyd Green
Electric Guitar:  Wayne Moss
Bass:  Jr. Huskey
Drums:  Buddy Harman
Piano:  Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins
Vocals:  Anita Kerr, Hurshel Wigenton, The Nashville Edition
Arranged by Lloyd Green
Produced by Joe Gibson & Slim Williamson
Mastered by John Eberle

As it turns out, “Promises Promises” would be a near instrumental cover of the top 10 country hit by labelmate, Lynn Anderson — I can only presume Green played on that version, as well.  According to Walter Stettner, proprietor of the Lloyd Green Tribute website, it is.  Says Stettner, “Lloyd was the session leader on almost all of the Chart recordings. I only know very few recordings where Pete Drake got to play; otherwise if you hear something on Chart or Little Darlin, it is most likely Lloyd.”

As this chart alphabetically illustrates, Lloyd Green played steel on an astounding 116 number-one hit recordings.  Of course, you may not be surprised to know that Green would release a baker’s dozen or so singles under his own name, including a cover of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Sally G” (on which he originally played).  But you might be flabbergasted to learn, as I was, that this tireless, upright master of the steel would join the rogue’s gallery of artists who made the dubious decision to release a backwards b-side!  That’s right, just before he signed to Chart, Green would release a one-off 45 on Big A:  “Panic (A Trip)” as the A-side with “Cinap (Pirt A)” as the flip(ped out) side:

Oh, Lloyd – why’d you do it?

Chart Records:  Property of Gusto

As Jon Hartley Fox points out in King of the Queen City:  The Story of King Records,   “Moe Lytle bought the King and Starday companies in 1975 and has now owned King Records for longer than [Syd] Nathan did.”  In 1978 Lytle would launch Gusto Records, a budget label that issued albums, tapes, and (later) compact discs, and go on to acquire a number of other labels for the purpose of reissuing their back catalogs.  As Gusto’s website indicates in its banner, Lytle’s enterprise – GML – owns the catalogs of all the King-related labels (except for James Brown’s recordings), Scepter and subsidiary, Wand (except for Dionne Warwicke’s recordings), Starday, Musicor – and Chart Records, not to mention Little Darlin’.

Chart Records ad

“Mountain Mambo”: Latinbilly

Joe Goldmark is not only a musician but also a scholar, whose International Steel Guitar and Dobro Discography – “a resource book that attempts to list every steel guitar and Dobro instrumental ever recorded” – is a fascinating reference tool for those interested in Syd Nathan’s King Records legacy.

Jerry Byrd – one-time steel guitarist for Hank Williams – recorded four songs at Cincinnati’s King Records studio on October 29, 1954 as part of The Country Cats (with Al Myers on guitar).  “Mountain Mambo,” is the A-side of a King 45 that playfully incorporates Latin elements within a hillbilly jazz framework:

“Mountain Mambo”     The Country Cats (featuring Jerry Byrd)     1954

Audio clip includes excellent B-side, “Hot Strings.”

Thanks to The Jerry Byrd Fan Club website, I now know that “during the 1950s, Jerry Byrd upgraded to a seven-string, pre-war model of the same Rickenbacker Bakelite steel guitar (as pictured below).  He was playing this fine instrument while on WLW radio in Cincinnati, Ohio, and recorded his popular Decca album, Hi-Fi Guitar, using this guitar.”

Jerry Byrd - 1950sJerry Byrd - Hi Fi Guitar LP

Steel Guitarists – and the Music Historians Who Love Them

Listed below are the other King/Federal/Deluxe/Audio Lab recordings referenced in The International Steel Guitar & Dobro Discography, with the names of the featured steel guitarists – where known and/or applicable – indicated in parentheses:

New!   Streaming audio for many of the recordings below:

Paul Blunt & His Islanders
              Golden Goodies of Old Hawaii   1960   [King LP]

The Buckeye Pals
              "Buckeye Boogie"   1952?   [Deluxe 78 & 45]

The Country Cats (featuring Jerry Byrd) 
              "Mountain Mambo" / "Hot Strings"  [King 78 & 45]
              "Sun Shadows" / "Hop Scotch"  [King 45]

Eddie Chamblee Orchestra
              "Blue Steel"   1950?   [(leased) Federal 78]
  
Cowboy Copas (featuring Slim Idaho)
              "Jamboree"   January, 1948   [King 78]

Mel Cox (featuring Lefty Perkins)
              "Guitar Jump" / "No Suh"   1950   [King 78]

King Curtis
              "Steel Guitar Rag"   1962   [King & DeLuxe 45s]

Andy Iona & His Islanders
              Hawaiian Interlude   1950   [King EP]

The Kiddie Ka-Dees 
              "Remington Ride"   1959   [King 45]

Freddie King 
              "Remington Ride"   1965   [King LP]

Krazy Kris (featuring Floyd Smith)   [rec. October, 1956 in NYC] 
              "Floyd’s Guitar Blues" / "Wishy Washy"   [King 45]

Eddie Martin & His King Serenaders
               Echoes of Hawaii   c. December, 1946   [King EP]
              "Pineapple Polka"   November, 1947   [King 78]

Leon McAuliffe (featuring Leon McAuliffe)
              "Faded Love" / "Panhandle Rag"  [Starday-King 45]

Hank Penny & His Radio Cowboys 
  ~ featuring Noel Boggs (c. early 1946): 
              "Steel Guitar Stomp" / "Counting the Days"  [King 45]
              "Steel Guitar Stomp" / "Merle’s Buck Dance"  [King 45]
  ~ featuring Bobby Koefer (1947):
              "Hillbilly Jump" / "Kentucky"   [King 78]
  ~ featuring Ralph Miele (October, 1946): 
              "Penny Blows His Top" / "Locked Out"   [King 78]
              "Steel Guitar Polka" / "Won’t You Ride..?"  [King 78]
  ~ featuring Herb Remington (March, 1950):  
              "Jersey Bounce" / "Wham! Bam!"   [King 78]
              "Remington Ride" / "Have My Picture Took"  [King 78]
  ~ featuring Speedy West (March, 1949): 
              "Hillbilly Bebop" / [b-side from 1947*]  [King 78]

Webb Pierce (featuring Shot Jackson)
              "New Panhandle Rag"   1960   [(licensed) King 45]

Charlie Ryan (featuring Neil Livingston)
              Hot Rod King LP - includes (licensed) 1960 track "Steel Rock"

Cecil Surratt & Smitty Smith
              "Liza Jane" / "The Words You Say"   1960   [King 45]

T. Texas Tyler  (featuring Noel Boggs)
              "Tell Your Lies to the Man in the Moon"   1946   [King LP]
     
Jimmie Widener (featuring Earl "Joaquin" Murphy)
              "Jimmie’s Jump" / "She’s Left Me"   1948   [King 78]

King-a-Paul Blunt LPKing-b-Charlie Ryan LPt-texas-tyler-lp-amoon-mullican-lp-a

“Lothario in A”: Red Rhodes on the Elektra Label

It was a bit of a sea change, prestige-wise, for Red Rhodes to go from “lowly” Crown (and I say that with affection) to Jac Holzman’s esteemed Elektra label.  Aside from 1970’s supergroup experiment with Red Rhodes, Buddy Emmons, Sneaky Pete, Jay Dee Maness & Rusty Young – Suite Steel:  The Pedal Steel Guitar Album – Red released his first proper solo album in 1973, Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band, on Elektra imprint, Countryside (a Mike Nesmith enterprise, as it turns out).  Red gets a wonderful shimmering effect on his steel guitar in the soaring instrumental, “Lothario in A”:

Thanks to Discogs for the musician credits:

Producer:  Michael Nesmith
Arranger & Steel Guitar:  Red Rhodes
Acoustic Guitar:  Dr. Robert K. Warford
Electric Guitar:  Jay Lacy
Bass:  Bill Graham, Colin Camero & Jim Stallings
Drums:  Danny Lane
Piano & Liner Notes:  David Barry
Art Direction & Design:  Dean O. Torrence (of Jan & Dean)

Red Rhodes Elektra LP

According to Jac Holzman’s memoir, Becoming Elektra:

“Mike Nesmith’s Countryside label was an intriguing venture based, in part, on the premise that Nesmith thought it possible to develop a label in California based upon a Western take on country music, and he cited Buck Owens as a model.  Holzman thought it worth exploring the idea of a small ancillary label working a potent vein of American music, separate from Elektra’s offices.

‘Nesmith could bring unusual talented people together and create a supportive environment,’ says Holzman.  “He was whip-smart and a pro in the studio.  Countryside was an effort to develop a different kind of country music, where country and cowboy and folk merges.  We built Michael his own studio around the same analogue mixing console that recorded L.A. Woman.  Unfortunately, Countryside was the first thing David Geffen dismantled when he took over [as head of newly-merged Elektra/Asylum].’

Only two albums appeared:  Garland Frady’s splendid Pure Country and one by Nesmith’s renowned steel guitarist, Red Rhodes, Velvet Hammer in a Cowboy Band.”

At the time of Geffen’s big deal, Jac would be appointed senior VP and Chief Technology Officer for Warner Brothers-Elektra-Atlantic — an emerging giant now challenging Columbia for supremacy.  Important to note that by 1970 Jac’s label, Elektra, had already been sold for $11 million to the Kinney Corporation.

This album, interestingly enough, was also released as volume 10 in the Steel Guitar Record Club series — other steel guitarists profiled in this series include Speedy West, Jerry Byrd, Buddy Charleton, Buddy Emmons, Herb Remington, Alvino Rey, Lloyd Green, Curly Chalker, Tom Brumley, Hal Rugg, Jimmy Day, Jay Dee Maness & Bobby Black, among others.

“Pony Tail”: Red Rhodes on the Crown Label

How inspiring to see that Orville J. “RedRhodes – the legendary steel guitarist who, by the late 1960s, was one of the most in-demand session musicians on the West Coast – got his start on Crown.

           Once a day – 1961                blue blue day – 1962           Steel Guitar Rag – 1963

Red Rhodes - Crown aRed Rhodes - Crown bRed Rhodes - Crown c

Pony Tail,” from 1965’s Guitars Go Country LP, sounds – most intriguingly – like some long-lost Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant number:

[Pssst:  Click on the triangle above to play ”Pony Tail'” by Red Rhodes.]

Red Rhodes - Crown LP

Red Rhodes would go on to release a live album on indie label, Happy Tiger, in 1969 — Red Rhodes & the Detours + Live at the Palomino — and his backup band, interestingly, would include Jerry Cole, another Crown alumnus.

Everyone Loves Red:  A Selected Red Rhodes Sessionography*

The Ventures in Space – The Ventures – 1964
Begin – The Millennium – 1968
Notorious Byrd Brothers – The Byrds – 1968
The Wichita Train Whistle Sings – Michael Nesmith – 1968
Bubble Gum, Lemonade & Something for Mama – Cass Elliot – 1969
Instant Replay – The Monkees – 1969
It’s Not Killing Me – Mike Bloomfield – 1969
John Phillips – John Phillips – 1969
Hand Sown, Home Grown – Linda Ronstadt – 1969
Nancy – Nancy Sinatra – 1969
Weeds – Brewer & Shipley – 1969
The Blue Marble – Sagittarius – 1969
Magnetic South – Michael Nesmith – 1970
Loose Salute – Michael Nesmith – 1970
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor – 1970
Tom Rush – Tom Rush – 1970
Nevada Fighter – Michael Nesmith – 1971
Possum – Possum – 1971
Lead Free – B. W. Stevenson – 1972
One Man Dog – James Taylor – 1972
Rhymes and Reasons – Carole King – 1972
Son of Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson – 1972
A Song for You – The Carpenters – 1972
Summer Breeze – Seals & Crofts – 1972
Tantamount to Treason – Michael Nesmith – 1972
And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’ – Michael Nesmith – 1972
Willis Alan Ramsey – Willis Alan Ramsey – 1972
Five & Dime, 1973 – David Ackles – 1973
Pure Country, 1973 – Garland Frady – 1973
Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash – Michael Nesmith – 1973
Valley Hi – Ian Matthews – 1973
Calabasas – B. W. Stevenson – 1974
L.A. Turnaround – Bert Jansch – 1974
Black Bach – Lamont Dozier – 1974
The Prison – Michael Nesmith – 1974
Diamonds & Rust – Joan Baez – 1975
Marriott – Steve Marriott – 1975
Midnight on the Water – David Bromberg – 1975
Sweet America – Buffy Sainte-Marie – 1976
Frolicking in the Myth – Steven Fromholz – 1977
Road Songs – Hoyt Axton – 1977
The Way I Am – Billy Preston – 1981
Tropical Campfires – Michael Nesmith – 1992

*Proof of popularity courtesy of Wikipedia