Country music sends chills up and down my spine. It curls the hair on the back of my neck. My heart does funny things. And I get this irresistable urge to dance. Every part of me wants to be a part of this music.
I wasn’t raised on Country music.
I wasn’t raised on County music. Jazz, musical theatre, 60’s Folk music, Rock n’ Roll. Maybe it was the County and Rockabilly influence in the Beatles and Rolling Stones that crept into my blood.
Looking back I realize that I never understood what was happening to me. The influence was very powerful. That whole mix in the 60’s was a bedrock of soulful expression.
Country music has this sadness and happiness going on at the same time. Who dreamed that up? Really? What is this? An expression of the entire human emotion in one song, all at once?
Now when I listen, I look back, and marvel how deeply this music touches me. I don’t why. I really don’t know why. Oh, I could go on and on about why I think it does, and analyze it. But you can’t really ever describe an experience. This is apparently mine. It’s a really beautiful one, too.
And then there’s that pedal steel guitar thing. I don’t know when I first heard it. Maybe watching Gene Autry on television as a kid. Ah! I forgot about that. Gene Autry, in my ears, when I was a child. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were probably crooning and yodeling in there, too. Now it becomes clearer.
And the steel guitar, probably slinking around in there, gently caressing the strings of my heart, whispering the most amazing things in my ear.
I remember when I first became aware of the pedal steel guitar. Crosby, Still & Nash “Teach Your Children” with Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar. In one take! They wouldn’t let him do it again.
A year later I was introduced to the music of Hank Williams. Then the rest of the panapoly followed. Name your favorite. I heard them all. And marveled, even without understanding why.
Shortly after that I got my first pedal steel guitar. Several others followed. I have only one now. She’s all I need. I can’t get enough.
Sometimes, when on stage, the band will start a song, maybe I’ve got the Intro, maybe not. But certain songs send those chills up and down my spine. You know the rest. It’s all I can do to keep my breathing steady and focus on my part. The heart and soul of Country music. Wow!
The lyrics, those incredible stories. And the melodies, swinging up and down through my nervous system. And the motion of the harmonies, grabbing around the edges sending the music into the stratosphere. And every instrument: fiddle, Dobro, mandolin, banjo, bass, guitars, harmonica, all expressing the different parts of the roots of the human experience. And the drums tying all of them together, holding it steady, and accentuating the dynamics of the entire experience.
And deep down there in the heart and soul of it all, my darlin’, the pedal steel guitar. Twenty strings of magic to choose. So many choices, and all of them a potent brew. Careful, Kel! Play the ones that find their way from the heart and back again. Those always work the best. Don’t even have to think about them. They pull my hands towards them, and then grab hold and I’m in their spell. I sit there amazed as I watch it unfold for me. And for you. And those chills running up and down my spine. It’s the history of the folks singing for us, brand-new again, and again. Every time.
If you ever get to the Ryman Auditorium, you can feel it seeping down the walls. When Mandy Barnett sings Patsy Cline you can feel it living in your blood. And bones. Come on Emmylou, Suzy Boguss, Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas. Show how us how it’s done.
My heros: Buddy Emmons, Jeff Newman, Bobby Black, Lucky Oceans, Norm Hamlett, Paul Franklin, Sid Hudson, Curly Chalker, Herby Wallace, Hal Rugg, Pete Drake, Lloyd Green, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Herb Remington, Don Helms, Buck Reid, JD Maness, Buddy Cage, Jerry Garcia, Jimmy Day, Tom Brumly, Jimmy Crawford, Buddy Charlton, Maurice Anderson, Sonny Garrish, John Hughy, Bud Isaacs, Doug Jernigan, Leon McAuliffe, Ralph Mooney, Weldon Myrick, Herb Remington, Speedy West. Billy Bowman, Bobby Garrett, Bobbe Seymour, Red Rhodes, Tom Bradshaw, Barbara Mandrell, Sarah Jory, Dave Hartely, Russ Hicks, Rusty Young. Some you’ve heard of, and some you haven’t. But every one of them have had a profound influence on me. I’ve heard every one them. Studied under a few of them, and continue to this day to learn from them.
The story of Country music is it’s history. There’s been this passing of the torch, if you will. I’m not so sure about that story today. It’s changed. But when I listen to those who created it: The Carter Family, Roy Acuff, Dave Mason, Merle Travis, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, The Tillis family, on and on; there’s a current that runs through their music.
And that current runs up and down my spine, and I dance to it’s tune.