Steel Guitar Players Added to Endangered Species List
The Environmental Protection Agency has just given an increasingly-rare form of American musician known as the steel guitar player the ominous distinction of being an endangered species. The EPA defines an endangered species as “one facing a very high risk of extinction.” The ruling comes as the number of steel guitar players continues to decline to alarmingly low levels.
“Steel guitar players are facing a real challenge to their native environment,” says EPA spokesperson Melinda Frankenfurter. “From the deep South and the greater Southeast region, to Texas, to parts of California, steel guitar players are seeing an intrusion of invasive species encroaching on their native territory, stealing their food sources.”
Mrs. Frankenfurter says that the primary threat to steel guitar players for years has been an invasive species known as the pop artist, pushing steel guitar players out of their native environment. But now a new invasive species has dramatically accelerating the steel guitar player’s decline in numbers. “They’re called country rap performers,” Frankenfurter explains. “And their threat to steel guitar players is even greater than that of the pop artists.”
Mrs. Frankenfurter says the EPA is asking for the public’s help in stemming the decline of the endangered species. “If you see a steel guitar player that looks injured, scared, or hungry, don’t approach it. Call the nearest honky tonk and ask them for their help.”
But the news isn’t all bad. Apparently steel guitar players have found an unlikely friend in their fight for survival: the North American hipster. “North American hipsters have been adopting steel guitar players in places like Echo Park in LA, in east Nashville, and east Austin,” explains Melinda Frankenfurter. “Though the ultimate survival of steel guitar players depends on them thriving in their native environment, the amount of them living in captivity could help curb their decline in numbers.”
(This article was inspired by a Tweet by Reginald Spears.)
August 16, 2013 @ 10:15 am
What of the fiddle players? They’ve been in decline for some time as well
August 16, 2013 @ 11:11 am
Got a kick out of this. Good way to lighten up my afternoon. I also checked out this Reginald character on Twitter. He’s a hoot!
August 16, 2013 @ 11:51 am
August 24, 2016 @ 7:25 pm
Of all the best Steel Guitar players I have ever heard of Robert “Wiz” Fineberg is one of the greatest. I would put his resume beside that of anyone in the business today.
August 16, 2013 @ 12:14 pm
LOL! Nice. 😀
August 16, 2013 @ 12:26 pm
Fiddle players will be fine…the girl with Mellencamp saved them way back in the’80s…many”country”bands still have a fiddle,while the steel is long gone…
TX Music Jim
August 16, 2013 @ 1:04 pm
Funny and sad and dang near true. Ironically at this years Jimmy Buffett, Jackson Browne Conert both bands had steel players. Now in an effort to make all things right with the universe I’ll put on some Johnny Bush records which will feature plenty of good steel licks ,no doubt.
August 16, 2013 @ 1:41 pm
Daft Punk’s Fragment of TIme features Greg Leisz on pedal steel guitar and I believe the new John Mayer record has Greg in it too. I don’t know if those artists are considered hipsters though.
August 16, 2013 @ 1:44 pm
Todd Beene is one beast of a steel guitar player.
August 16, 2013 @ 2:02 pm
I just saw a guy Spencer Cullum Jr. Play with Rayland Baxter and he was awesome. He is in Caitlin Rose’s band I think (he’s in all her videos) and in a duo called Steelism. He is potentially a hipster but regardless he’s a young super talented steel guitar player.
August 16, 2013 @ 2:46 pm
Spencer Cullum is a badass who I’ve also seen play with Jonny Fritz. One of my favorites of the newer generation of steel guitar players. He also helped with some of the licks and arrangements with Caitlin Rose’s latest album.
August 21, 2013 @ 5:22 pm
I couldn’t agree more about Spencer… he is the real deal, and is the future of pedal steel.
August 16, 2013 @ 2:18 pm
As a steel player I do believe that it is going to take alot more than a generation of terrible so called country musicians to get rid of us.But as long as we have people to play our traditional music to we will overcome these awful times. Somebody is going to have to pry our picks off our cold dead fingers before we go away!
August 16, 2013 @ 2:35 pm
Steel Guitar is fortunately alive and well down here in the Duke City, in the forms of John “Speedbump” Feldman and Art Maya, both ferocious practitioners of the art form. Hopefully your city has someone you can brag on also.
August 16, 2013 @ 2:58 pm
There are so many great steel guitar players out there and I would some day love to profile all of them. But one problem is some of the best are local guys you’d never hear about unless you lived in their town. They do it for the love of the music.
October 23, 2013 @ 3:31 pm
If you want to see the best in Steel Guitar make a trip to the International Steel Guitar show in St Louis MO over the last weekend in August yearly, this year they had Junior Brown, Johnny Bush, Rusty Young Sara Jory, and the best of the best in stell guitarists, if St Louis is too far then try Texas, they both have huge steel guitar events…search Scottys Music in St Louis for info…
October 23, 2013 @ 3:39 pm
August 23, 2016 @ 1:48 pm
This is sad news! I have always loved the steel guitar since I was a very small child.
ben "franklin" dover
August 16, 2013 @ 4:24 pm
The person who does the most for steel-guitar awareness these days is Robert Randolph and his Family Band. In one appearance on Jay Leno, he puts the steel guitar front-and-center in front of more people in one night people than all but a small handful of people have done in their entire careers. People give him grudging respect but secretly wish he’d go away because he’s taking the instrument in a whole ‘nother direction–one which Mr. Bigsby, Mr. Jackson, and Mr. Emmons could never have imagined. The instrument is being shut out in the very city which it helped to put on the map–Nashville, TN. We’re all aware of what passes for “country music” these days, what the artists are producing, and what the “country” radio stations are playing. It’s sad, but the steelers are going to have to adapt or die as the instrument continues to have less and less of a presence on the “country” music scene.
August 16, 2013 @ 5:24 pm
We still have a few talented steel guitar players out here in the Los Angeles area but none of them are young’uns. Recently we lost top tier steel player Jeremy Wakefield to the siren call of the Pacific Northwest as he relocated to Oregon. Jeremy was the player you’ll hear on the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon series.
I’m sure glad steel guitar players are still highly valued in Texas due to the love of traditional country among the dancing set. I haven’t listened to Miss Leslie’s brand new album yet, but I just know it will have some great steel playing involved! Go Leslie!
August 18, 2013 @ 8:44 am
Thanks for the name, just listened to him and a very good guitar player named Biller
very nice music.
August 16, 2013 @ 5:46 pm
I liked the article until you mentioned hipsters. The ones I’VE met all hate country music, music with twang and pretty much anthing that isn’t indie music (which apparently morphed from a status into a genre at some point when I wasn’t paying attention). I even had one tell me that it was “okay to like art that is objectively bad.” I find them to be even more annoying than regular people that don’t like country; at least regular people aren’t pretentious with their criticisms.
August 16, 2013 @ 7:57 pm
Lets not forget Andy Gibson. That guy does some amazing things with that steel.
August 16, 2013 @ 8:38 pm
With the death of steel guitar, is the death of “depth” to music.
Everyone’s going for the four-piece rock band and/or electronic aids these days.
The little things matter too, and today’s music is mostly lacking of them.
fire, heat, unhealthy air | Eagles11eyes's Blog
August 17, 2013 @ 8:32 am
[…] thrive in your native environment. steel guitar players as a metaphor for making your own music. https://www.savingcountrymusic.com/steel-guitar-players-added-to-endangered-species-list […]
August 18, 2013 @ 8:36 am
compare country music as it is now, with rock and roll,
Rock and Roll started out with electric guitars and pianos in the fifties, and sixty years later, still is basically electric guitars and sometimes a piano.
and two guitars/bass player/drummer
is still the predominant rock music band format.
So rock has stayed true to its roots in that way.
June 24, 2018 @ 9:40 pm
Rock & Roll of the ’50’s usually had a tenor sax–listen to Bill Haley! Country of the 50’s usually had a fiddle and a steel guitar–Hank Williams etc. I earned $ on all of ’em, but had a family. You can see why I took a day job…. Mike
Lazy Lump Tiddy Bits | Rawhide And Velvet
August 18, 2013 @ 12:09 pm
[…] This is Reggie Spears’ fault.Â Â […]
August 19, 2013 @ 11:43 am
True story…..One time not so long ago at a souncheck I was getting my sound dialed in when the soundman asked me if I “Could make it sound less Country?”
Are you kidding me! It took all I had not to smack the dummy upside his head with my bar.
August 21, 2013 @ 7:42 am
Opened Itunes and to my surprise the above was staring me in the face. I know its a tribute but found it appropriate for the article.
October 7, 2013 @ 3:45 pm
Todd Beene (Lucero, Glossary) is an excellent younger pedal steel player, as is Michael Winter from Truckstop Darlin
October 22, 2013 @ 1:17 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJUx8didhZA I found the missing steel guitar players (or at least one of them), they’ve… defected to rap?
November 27, 2014 @ 1:01 pm
Lap steel is my retirement plan – when I am too old to stand for hours on end or to lug around upright basses/wear heavy electric basses and guitars.. I will be sitting with the lap steel!
November 27, 2014 @ 3:48 pm
He doesn’t get talked about alot but here in California is a guy named Chris Lawrence. He played lead guitar and all the steel parts for Mike Ness on his solo albums and tours. He’s been all around doing sessions with a ton of folks, hank III, old 97’s and if you can find it one of the best albums in years was his work with a songwriter out of Fresno named Cisco. Wishing you well from the pink hotel. Great Bakersfield/la country record that mike Ness produced.
jay from itaewon, korea
February 23, 2015 @ 8:38 am
clint black, mark chesnutt, shelby lynne… what happened to these great country artists and their classic sound that all featured the steel guitar? if i wanted to listen to country rap, i’d listen to charlie daniels
jay from itaewon, korea
February 23, 2015 @ 8:50 am
and with the final concert of george strait and the cowboy rides away, we may very well have to wait for a decades-long cycle of bell bottoms and ginormous shirt collars to come back into fashion
April 28, 2015 @ 7:40 am
I disagree that we’re endangered…..Steel Players are everywhere..More and More than ever….its just nobodys using them anymore!!!!
August 24, 2016 @ 4:22 pm
I am honored to have a, five piece country band, with a steel player. I can’t imagine doing
real country with out one, oh that’s right, we do play “Real Country” music. We do Merle Haggard, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Buck Owens, George Jones, Conway, George Strait etc. all of the original names and even the original material I right allows a “Steel” part. My name is Lyle Sinclair, of “The LyleSinclair Band” the steel player that works with me, Randy Meenach, is his name, a very creative and disciplined mucisian and a pleasure to work with. These new artisits today alot of them are in it for themselves and they could care less about the music. I can tell you from experience, they are missing the “Boat”. People that love and play real country music really do love The Steel Guitar.
August 24, 2016 @ 7:39 pm
Honored to have worked for many years with Robert Wiz Fineberg of Flint Michigan back when he made his home in Toronto. His Discipline, Talent, and Dedication was a guiding light to many of the emerging country singers in the 70’s and 80’s. I humbly include myself in this wonderful handful of Journeymen performers. His work will be remembered by some of the most well remembered bar bands of this time, not to mention those for whom he supplied recorded studio tracks. He may be located back in the states once again, but it is wonderful to know that through him and so many others, Steel Guitar is in no danger whatsoever of dying out.
August 25, 2016 @ 9:48 am
Sorry but I just don’t agree with this. I love this blog most of the time but you are so blinded by the objective awfulness of bands like FGL (and rightfully so) that you throw the baby out with the bathwater every time you feel like bitching about modern country at large, and that’s not really fair. Plenty of these guys still dabble in country music, enough so that they keep a steel player in their touring bands. And you never seem to want to talk about those guys, like Craig Campbell or Joe Nichols or Easton Corbin or Chris Young. If you want someone to save country music, why shit on the people who are trying to do it from within the system? Every time I turn on country radio and hear Outskirts of Heaven instead of some retread Blake Shelton schlock I finally feel like we might be getting somewhere but it’s all crickets over here.
For what it’s worth, I make my living as a steel player in Nashville and while I do get into a little bit of the East Nashville thing from time to time, let me be very clear that the hipsters will do more to destroy steel guitar than fads like country rap ever will, because they don’t want to take the time to really learn what is a tremendously complicated instrument and instead they dumb it down.
If you want to stick your head in the sand and complain that nobody is making Ray Price songs anymore then have at it, but I’ve found more opportunities to play steel than I can keep up with since I moved to Nashville.
August 25, 2016 @ 10:43 am
I sincerely appreciate your feedback.
First, please take into consideration that this article is three years old, and was written in total sarcasm. The only reason I reposeted it on Facebook today is because for whatever reason, someone unearthed yesterday and the link was being passed around. I had forgotten about it frankly, but thought it would make an interesting repost.
On top of that, I 100% agree that there are still folks out there, including in the mainstream that are trying to keep country music and the steel guitar alive, and I try to emphasize those artist every chance I get, sometimes to the chagrin of my independent and traditional country readers. Craig Campbell’s “Outskirts of Heaven” is a good example, and I highlighted it in a article a few months ago:
I also regularly tout Mo Pitney, Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan, and other mainstream artists that do use steel in their songs and are trying to lead country back in a positive direction.
The point of this article was to not just criticize, but to emphasize how cherished both the steel guitar and steel guitar players are in country music.
Thanks for all you and other steel guitar players do to try and keep that sound alive.
August 26, 2016 @ 1:30 pm
Visit Portland. It’s thick with fantastic Steel Guitar Players like Rusty Blake who can be heard mostly recently on the new Western Centuries album as well asCahalen Morrison’s Country Hammer album.
Portland also has is the current location of Steel Guitar great Jeremy Wakefield. Todd Cline-Smith performs in Portland with the Barndoor Slammers. He also makes fantastic custom steel guitar’s inspired by the original Bigsby’s. Those are just a few of the Portland players. There are many more including Ian Miller and Chris Miller. It’s definitely a music haven.
Here is a Cline-Smith guitar in action – https://youtu.be/hoeQycyJVNE
Rusty Blake live at the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland – https://youtu.be/IJMq9lB1JHQ
Paul Brainard (Portland) – https://youtu.be/g8Zt1t3kMZk
Rusty Blake with Western Centuries – https://youtu.be/4ZPD5XD5geE
Chris Miller with Wayne Hancock on Austin City Limits – https://youtu.be/fY5QqvMkFpc
Rusty and Ian Miller with The Earnest Lovers – https://youtu.be/ETQtD2sdLuk
Country Dave Harmonson (Seattle) – https://youtu.be/tNJDPfAcvA8
Todd Cline-Smith with the Barndoor Slammers – https://youtu.be/7t3ZIaHtqjg
Jeremy Wakefield with the Lucky Stars at Duffs in Portland – https://youtu.be/feQUadyNziI
September 1, 2016 @ 2:45 pm
the trouble with steel guitar is that it is extremely hard to learn it takes years to master and then you never quit learning on top of that it is very expensive to get in a former steel player formerly played in tulsa ok now living in mo and only get to play about 2 times a month
March 29, 2018 @ 7:43 am
Steel guitar Jam will be June 10th because of Father’s Day on June 17th please spread the word
Water’s Edge Steel Guitar Jams
June 10th 1:00pm to 4:00pm
We need your help getting the word out. Thanks for all you do to keep Steal Guitar alive in the Midwest.
Location 10,000 N. Prairie View Road. 64153
From I-29 take Tiffany Springs Road SW to 1st street, Prairie View Road. Make a right turn (West). It is less the a mile to Water’s Edge.
This is a Steel Guitar Jam. This is an invite by a Steel Guitar player or us only jam.
Thank you; Bigjohn & littledrummer
Big Bad Mike
November 30, 2018 @ 6:30 am
It’s Clinesmith BTW, not hyphenated. Todd just restored Speedy West’s Bigsby T-8 steel too, he is the real deal. Also Cindy Cashdollar, Jeremy Wakefield, Lee Jeffriess, Rose Sinclair and Eddie Rivers. As for ALL the players mentioned above, never heard of them, don’t give a damn and cvan’t be bothered – if it sounds even VAGUELY like pop-rock it just makes me sick. Of course players trying to make a living need to justify it; that’s what whores and crack dealers do too. Mutating it into rock isn’t “evolution,” that’s what every purveyor of pop crap has always said. It’s DEvolution, igt’s been going on for decades, and people with ears and genuine love of country music know this, so you’re barking up the wrong tree. Go peddle your pedals somwehere else.
June 23, 2019 @ 4:19 pm
I have been playing pedal steel since 1958 and still playing. Still have many people wanting to hear the pedal steel. I have played for a few famous country artists when they have passed thur the area. You gotta have a steel in Country Period !!!