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)
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.