Amateur Steel Guitar Jam

September 30 - October 1, 1995
Sacramento, California

(group picture)

Big Jim Baron organized this event, which was unlike anything I'd ever been to. Attendance was limited to 15 pickers, and you had to bring a steel guitar (or a steel guitarist) to get in the door.

Jim has something like 150 country standards programmed into his laptop computer, which plays a small MIDI synthesizer. Someone would suggest a tune and a key for it, and Jim would punch it up and kick it off. Then we would pass it around the room, with each player taking a turn. The main rule is that you wait your turn - don't play while someone else is playing. You can pass if you're not comfortable with a song. After the song has been around the room twice, it would end.

People brought a lot of fine equipment to jam with, and during breaks everyone had a great time talking steel. By Sunday afternoon, people were making some pretty serious equipment trading deals! I managed to sell some cassettes and CDs, which paid my motel bill. I also tried to play a BMI I have set up with the C Scale tuning, but I pretty much fell flat on my face.

As a grand finale we broke the rules on one tune - we all played together on "Together Again". What a glorious noise! You'll never hear anything like it anywhere. I bet the cats in that neighborhood are still howling.

One of the great things about an amateur steel jam is that the pressure is kept to a minimum. Everyone made plenty of mistakes, but we all enjoyed hearing each other so much that it didn't matter. I'm convinced that steel players are the friendliest folks in the world. Talk about sympathetic ears!

Anyway, I snapped a roll of pictures and Big Jim sent me some more. I've scanned them in for your viewing enjoyment. Just click on the little pictures to view the big ones. They've been JPEGed to keep their size down to the 20k-30k range. Here they are...

The Room

Big Jim Baron

Tuning Up

The Players:

The Audience:

"Steel Guitar Widows"


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Copyright ©1995 by Bob Lee,