Saturday, February 07, 2009

Advise for the Steel Player

I always liked Buck Owens & His Buckeroos. One of my musical heros Lou Whitney used to tell me
a lot of stories about wild Buckeroos gigs that he went to in Arizona back in the '60's. Beehive hairdo havin' women swarming
the stage and all. Lou called it "Combo Country". The small self contained band as opposed to the lush Nashville productions of the time. Great stuff all of it.

One time I was down at Lou's recording studio in Springfield, MO to produce a record for artist Jono Manson and we were talking about putting pedal steel on one of the tunes.
Lou mentioned that original Buckaroos steel player Tom Brumley was living nearby and playing shows at his family's theater in Branson. Holy moly. Lets get Tom Brumley!

Lou got a hold of Tom and a few days later Tom shows up at the studio in a sharp little Mercedes with his pedal steel and a new reissue Fender Bassman that had been customized for him by the Fender folks with a JBL K-130 15" speaker ("the only speaker for pedal steel" said Tom).

Tom got set up and before we played him the song I went out there to talk to him about what we were looking for on the song.
I was kind of nervous about it and I think Tom could tell. I told him I really needed to let him know the direction for this part.
I hoped that it wouldn't offend him but I told him that I was just going to go ahead and tell him the same thing that I told
any guy who was gonna play pedal steel on a track that I was producing. Tom is giving me the "Ok, kid" look.
I'm still nervous about it and Tom prods me "Ok what do you need"?
And I'm still beating around the bush "Its just what I have to tell all the pedal steel players......"

Tom is still waiting...

"Well, I always tell 'em to play it like Tom Brumley"


Well Tom did a great job for us on Jono Manson's song "No Strings" from the record Little Big Man that features Will Rigby on drums.
Tom also told us some good Buckaroos tales about his first gig with them in Arizona where he flew down
to meet Buck who told him he "had a steel for him". Turns out it was in pieces in a box and Tom had to build it before the gig.

One of the best stories he told was about being in the studio with the Buckaroos. Usually Buck and his super guitar playing partner Don Rich would have the songs worked out and show them to the band in the studio. They'd usually cut a coupld songs at a session. This is at Capitol Records in Hollywood. On one day they had 2 down and had a little time left for one more. Buck and Don showed this song to the band then with only enough time left on the session for one take Buck leans over and tells Tom "play something you can get right the first time"

And that song became another of Buck's hits "Together Again" with a first take track from everyone including Tom's solo.


Tom played in Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band and Dwight Yokam and Pete Anderson had him play steel on most of Dwight's heavily Buck influenced stuff. A couple years later I brought Tom into the studio to play on the Backsliders "Southern Lines" record. I didn't have the 15" JBL with me and I heard about it from Tom. Went home and got one that we keep in the studio now. So steel players, play it like Tom Brumley!

Tom Brumley RIP

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9 Comments:

Blogger Matt Helderman said...

Truly great stuff! Thanks for sharing that.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

Yeah, awesome blog post.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Wheels said...

You tell a pretty cool story, 'Scoe. Would love to hear another one soon. Thanks.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Thanks for the memories, and the music!

10:00 AM  
Anonymous riga said...

Great yarns Roscoe. where would country be without California?

8:07 AM  
Blogger steve said...

Unbeleivable, you play with all the good ones Roscoe! I only recently discovered The Morells and The Skeletons..Lou Whitney and D. Clinton Thompson are incredible. Then I find they have recorded and are the Rhythms section for a million artists.
Thanks for sharing all this!

2:44 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

great post, thanks for sharing!

10:11 PM  
Blogger Chris Hillman said...

Roscoe, any advice for pedal steel recording techniques? Mic choice, placement, etc? I'm gonna have to do some this week for the first time...

6:26 PM  
Blogger roscoe said...

Make sure the Steel player is playing through a 15" speaker...preferably a JBL.

A ribbon mic 9" away from the speaker is a very good place to start. Into a good preamp and just a tad of compression from an opto type comp. Keep all the takes and make a comp.

7:12 PM  

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