Steel Guitar Revolutionary Bud Isaacs Has Died
Bud Isaacs wasn’t just a steel guitar player, he was the man who revolutionized the instrument by adding the foot and knee pedals that allow the steel guitar to change the pitch of singles strings as opposed to having to change to a different chord all at the same time. This made Bud Isaacs and other steel guitar players the musical wizards of the day, able to emulate the moans and yodels of country’s legendary singers with the steel’s mournful tone.
Born March 28th, 1928 in Bedford, Indiana, he began to play steel guitar on local radio stations at the age of 16, eventually heading to Nashville and performing on the Grand Ole Opry with Eddie Hill, and later in Jimmy Dickens’ Country Boys. Webb Pierce’s 1954 hit “Slowly” was the first major song to feature Bud Isaacs’ new take on the steel guitar, and it revolutionized the instrument, and country music with it.
In 1955, Isaacs became an official member of the Ozark Jubilee, and regularly performed with star Red Foley on the program. Also in 1955 Bud played on all 11 of the top country hits of that year, speaking to his influence, and how in demand his playing was.
Isaacs also played as a solo performer, and recorded for RCA for a short time, including the favorite “The Waltz You Saved For Me,” and his signature song, “Bud’s Bounce.” Bud Isaacs’ credits and the artists he played with are too numerous to list, and he also performed in the Golden West Singers with his wife, yodeler, and bass player Geri Mapes.
As country began to contemporize, there was less work for Bud Isaacs and he eventually retired in Arizona. According to Rick Jackson, Isaacs died on Sunday, September 4th at 11:00 a.m. Bud will be cremated, and a memorial service will be held at a later date. Cards can be sent to Geri at 12461 E. 38th Street Yuma, AZ 85367.
RIP Bud Isaacs.
September 5, 2016 @ 6:47 pm
As a lover of steel guitar I didn’t realize the impact he had! Thanks for posting.
September 6, 2016 @ 4:44 am
T’is sad news. I’ve always loved the song “Bud’s Bounce.” Some folks thought it was written by Buddy Emmons. The opening steel lick on “Slowly” was absolutely incredible and, as noted, opened the floodgates for country pedal steel guitar. It was one of the 5 songs I played on steel guitar before realizing it would take me decades to be a decent steel guitarist. So I sold my ShoBud pedal steel and stuck with the 6-string. God bless Bud and condolences to his wife Geri.
September 6, 2016 @ 5:03 am
Here he is playing another lovely old tune from the beginning of the twenties: “Indian Love Call”:
I find this video because a Swedish guy i know has also recorded an instrumental cover of this song. Wich made me search for other version of it…
September 6, 2016 @ 7:03 am
I got to meet him last year in Arizona when I was in school. He will be missed.
July 25, 2022 @ 2:16 pm
What an amazing influence on our family. Just about all of us play one instrument or another. I’ve drummed for over 30 years. Loved my uncle bud
Great and funny guy.
September 6, 2016 @ 7:48 am
Thanks for covering this Trigger! A true legend has passed. Gotta love his work and admire him as a real genius and visionary. Sad, we’ve lost Buddy Emmons as well this year. I sure hope more people step up to the plate….steel guitar that is. Is there any instrument that literally screams, wails and moans country music more than a pedal steel ? There’s some great Western swing bands in Nashville right now featuring lots of steel. Check out Jp Cyr and the Radio Wranglers, The Cowpokes and a cowboy music band called The Farmer and Adele.
September 6, 2016 @ 3:04 pm
The man who started it all. It was hearing “Slowly” on the radio that spurred every one of my heroes to have pedals rigged up on their steels. RIP Bud.
September 6, 2016 @ 8:11 pm
Iam sure all Buds fans will enjoy your loving memories of Uncle Bud. Everyone who knew Bud will miss him and his sense of humor as well as his genius. as innovator and guitarist. Geri and all our family will miss him dearly. His music will live on. Carolyn Isaacs
Thomas ( Tommy) Foutz
September 7, 2016 @ 3:32 pm
I met Bud in Athol Idaho one summer when he and Geri were playing music at Betties Country Inn. They came back a couple times and we had some of the best music around while they were there…Geri, I am very grateful that I had the chance to meet you and Bud, two of the nicest people I have ever met..
September 7, 2016 @ 4:55 pm
Although I never met him, I’ve known of him for decades. I’ve read several articles about Bud over the years along with praising comments when in conversation with my fellow pedal steel guitar friends. He is a true musical legend, and I pray his wife Geri and family find comfort in knowing he is with the Lord.
September 14, 2016 @ 4:08 pm
DEAR GERI..SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT BUD…I REMEMBER PLAYING WITH YOU AND BUD AT THE WORT HOTEL IN JACKSON, WYO..IN DUBOISE, WYO. AND LARAMIE, WYO. WE GOT ALONG FINE ON MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH..IT WAS A LOT OF FUN… THE LAST TIME I TALKED TO BUD WAS AFTER HIS STROKE I TOLD HIM WE WOULD TRY TO GET TO YUMA AND SEE YOU. TAKE CARE AND GOD BLESS
September 14, 2016 @ 4:15 pm
DEAR GERI… SO SORRY TO LEARN ABOUT BUD… I REMEMBER WORKING WITH YOU AND BUD AT THE WORT HOTEL IN JACKSON, WYO..LARAMIE WYO.DUBOISE WYO. ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT..I LIKED YOU RENDITION OF MY WINDOW FACES THE SOUTH..TAKE CARE AND GOD BLESS.. LOVE WAYNE HEWITT
November 27, 2016 @ 10:58 am
In the early 70′ s Bud Iscaacs Played in my band at the VFW in Adelanto, Ca one night. I had a phone number of another steel player that someone had given me and I called the number for someone to fill in for that night. I called the number and someone answered and said, ” the person you are calling for is not here…would Bud Iscaacs be ok to fill the spot?” I said, “I believe he could pull it off or something like that. Bud played with us that night and we had a great time? (How could I have known that just calling a number could have lead to us playing with one of the greatest steel players of all time) True story.
November 27, 2016 @ 11:14 am
So sorry to hear about Bud passing away. We have lost one of the greatest steel players. Our prayers go out to his family. Skip Graves
Bob & Yola Jennings
October 17, 2017 @ 10:05 am
My wife and I came to Yuma in September of 2000. You and Bud came to visit us in our trailer at the campground. It was HOT 106 degrees..I remember since we all drank ice tea, had the A/C wide open, and visited for over three hours. We took lots of pictures and found later that the battery in the camera was dead and none of the pictures developed. We sure enjoyed our visit. Anything that you read about the pedal steel guitar always has Bud Issacs name in it…he started it all….He will be missed…
Sincerely, Bob & Yola Jennings
william f barnett
October 17, 2018 @ 7:39 pm
I met Bud Isaacs at The Ozark Jubilee in the fall of 1954 in Springfield Missouri while on a weekend pass from Fort Leonardwood Missouri. It was the thrill of a lifetime to a 17 year old country music fan. I also met Porter Wagoner and Red Foley the same night.. At 81 there’s a lot of things I don’t remember, but I’ll never forget that night, or the one when Hank Williams Sr. died.
August 21, 2022 @ 5:22 pm
During 1980s Bud and Geri were playing in Jackson Hole…at Wort I believe…I was a shift manager for McDonald’s of Jackson Hole. They would come in have me get them a soft-serve twist cone. They were so nice and well mannered. I played Bud’s Bounce as a lead guitarist. Good music. What an icon.