from The Pedal Press, February 1979, Page 3
Whither the Future?
What happened to all those steel guitar fans of yesteryear? One
old fellow told me that he quit following steel guitar when pedals
came in because that's when they quit playing the melody. "How can
you call it music without the melody?", he asked. Another veteran of
the nonpedal age is appalled at the percentage of professional steel
guitarists who can't read music. Today's "hot licks" school of pedal
guitar fails to impress those with traditional views about musician-
ship. Maybe that's why we seldom see a big jazz band with a permanent
steel player, why steel rarely breaks into the pop and easy listening
markets, and why we've yet to hear a classical steel album.
With modern equipment, the timbre of our instrument is no longer
limited to that familiar Nashville "twang"; we can sound like trumpets,
violins, saxaphones, harpsichords, BASSOONS! But most of our best
players are still chained to the financial security blanket of
country music. Sitting atop a mountain af A and B pedal licks and
their modern permutations, we break out in a cold sweat if someone
hands us a piece of sheet music in Eb with no chord names on it.
Steel players like to blame record producers for not exploring
the potential of our instrument. While this appears to be a valid
criticism in the country music field, we can hardly blame the "easy
listening" producer, who has neither the time nor budget to rehearse
play-by-ear musicians to the point of perfect memorization of the
score. Likewise with the jazz bandleader - even if he likes your tone
and your ideas, if you can't read the charts, forget it! But I'll bet
that the steeler who can sight read three horn parts at once, and
sound brassy doing it, will be worth his weight in platinum.
But after all this is done, we'll still have the biggest nut of
all to crack: classical music! These high-brows have yet to recognize
the electric guitar as a legitimate instrument, and likely view the
pedal steel as a gimmicky extension of that (if they notice us at
all). Is there a player out there dedicated enough, or crazy enough,
to commit himself to that vast library of harmonic knowledge? I
certainly hope so.
Well, anyway, I've rambled on long enough. I'd better pull out
that steel and get back to work on that new arrangement of "Panhandle
Rag". Got to have it done by this week-end. Business as usual, you know.
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