Strictly speaking, a steel guitar is any guitar made out of metal, which means it can be a resonator guitar used for the blues and Americana music, a lap steel guitar popular with those who play Hawaiian music, or a venerable pedal steel, which is what gives country-western music and Texas swing their distinctive sounds.
While the first resonator guitars made in the 1920s only featured an aluminum amplifying cone where the guitar's sound hole would be, subsequent resonators had all-aluminum bodies. Resonators grew out of the popularity of the acoustic guitar in the 1920s—the amplification helped them be heard over louder instruments such as banjos.
The invention of the resonator is widely credited to John Dopyera who, in the mid-1920s, developed an amplifying system for ukuleles. He founded the National String Instrument Corporation in August 1926 with his brothers Rudy, Robert, Louis, and Emil, and their company would use John’s system to produce “ampliphonic” or “self-amplifying” guitars, known today as resonators. But Dopyera was frustrated with the sound his uke-sized resonator produced when fitted on guitars so, in 1929, he left National and founded Dobro Manufacturing.
Lap-played steel guitars produced by Gibson, Epiphone, and National were produced in the 1930s to cash in on the craze at the time for Hawaiian music. Fender and Gretsch also produced lap-steel guitars (some of which were misnomers since they had stands), but not until the 1940s. Because these guitars lacked sound holes for natural amplification, even the earliest models were electric—Gibsons like the E-150 and Roy Smeck Special, both of which had Charlie Christian pickups, are especially prized by collectors today.
Finally there are pedal steel guitars, single neck or double, which are mounted on stands and fitted with anywhere from four to 10 pedals, each of which can change the pitch of selected strings. Vintage Fender steel guitars, with or without pedals, are favorites of players and collectors alike, as are Sho-Bud instruments—the fingerboards of Sho-Buds are known for their inlay of diamonds, spades, hearts and clubs.
Regardless of the type of steel guitar played, one thing they all have in common is that the player needs to be adept at finger picking—these instruments are not meant to be strumed. In addition, instead of using the non-picking hand to push down the strings to produce chords, the player holds a tube—sometimes made of steel, sometimes glass—lightly against the strings. The tube is slid up and down the fingerboard, which is why the technique is also known as slide guitar.
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George Strait bids Louisville farewell with record crowd and plenty of hitsThe Courier-Journal, March 7th
Gill came loaded for bear Friday night with a band that featured two legendary musicians in bassist Willie Weeks and pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin. Gill isn't exactly a slouch himself, and he unleashed several dazzling guitar solos while barely...Read more
Womadelaide: Hanggai and Neko Case – reviewThe Guardian (blog), March 7th
Her fine, remarkably hirsute band features the impressive versatility of Jon Rauhouse on lap steel, guitar, banjo and a green trombone; though the long lay-off from the road occasionally becomes apparent. Case fluffs the intro of a couple of songs but...Read more
WYRK presents Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss & Union Station at Artpark in ...Niagara Frontier Publications, March 7th
Recorded in partnership with her skillful and renowned band, Union Station, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country, bluegrass and folk album charts upon its release. Union Station - Jerry Douglas (dobro, lap steel, vocals), Dan Tyminski...Read more
Adelaide festival 2014: Saturday 8 March – Live!The Guardian (blog), March 7th
made it possibly Case's most widely-heard tune. Her fine, remarkably hirsute band features the impressive versatility of Jon Rauhouse on lap steel, guitar, banjo and a green trombone; though the long lay-off from the road occasionally becomes apparent...Read more
The Revivalists Celebrate Their City of Soundjambands.com, March 7th
2013 was a breakout year for The Revivalists. After months of incessant touring, the New Orleans-based septet—David Shaw (vocals), Ed Williams (pedal steel guitar), Zack Feinberg (guitar), Rob Ingraham (saxophone), George Gekas (bass), Andrew ...Read more
Simpson tears up and tears it up at star-studded partyBakersfield Californian, March 7th
The large rotating cast of musicians featured former Merle Haggard sideman Mark Yeary, local favorite Larry Petree, pedal steel guitarist JayDee Maness (of the Desert Rose Band), rockabilly hero Deke Dickerson, renowned guitarist Brian Lonbeck, and ...Read more
Watch This: Alana Amram & The Rough Gems share new video for "Should I Go ...Nooga.com, March 7th
It was shortly after this that she met pedal steel virtuoso Philip Sterk, drummer Taylor Floreth, bassist/singer James Preston and guitarist Scott Metzger—and Alana Amram & The Rough Gems were born. The band has just released their third LP, "Spring...Read more
ALEX SKOLNICK, RUDY SARZO, Pedal Steel Guitarist ROBERT RANDOLPH ...BLABBERMOUTH.NET, February 12th
Video footage of guitarist Alex Skolnick (TESTAMENT, ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO), bassist Rudy Sarzo (Geoff Tate's QUEENSRŸCHE, OZZY OSBOURNE, DIO, WHITESNAKE, QUIET RIOT) and pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph jamming on the Peavey main ...Read more