Owen Bradley and the Quonset hut

Not many piano players have a statue dedicated to them, so the statue of Owen Bradley at Owen Bradley Park in Nashville is a significant landmark both in the city and its music. Bradley, who was born in Westmore-land, Tennessee, had started out as a piano player but morphed into a music arranger and songwriter,…

Recording Heartbreak Hotel

Recording Heartbreak Hotel One of the sessions that really put Nashville on the map as a recording center was Heartbreak Hotel, cut during Elvis Presley’s first session for RCA Victor after he had left Sun. There were very few recording facilities in Nashville at that time, and RCA didn’t have their own studio there. Methodists…

Harmonicas and the real McCoy

Harmonicas and the real McCoy Roy Orbison really hit it big with Crying, reaching number two on the national charts, but on the flip side was a song that was in sharp contrast to the Big O’s bolero style, a bluesy track that also made it up the charts, eventually hitting number 25. What really…

The first of the Nashville Sound

Historians of music like to debate on which was the first record that heralded the Nashville Sound. Some hold out for Jim Reeves’ Four Walls, recorded in February 1957. Chet Atkins, who was certainly in a position to know, backed his own production of Don Gibson’s Oh Lonesome Me, which was recorded later the same…

Banjo picking Scruggs style

On Earl Scruggs’s 80th birthday, in 2004, he was described by country star Porter Wagoner as the best player of the five-string banjo there ever was. “And the best there ever will be,” Wagoner added. Bluegrass The banjo of course is one of the formative instruments in country music, and is especially identified with bluegrass….

The pedal steel guitar

There is an amusing story attached to one of the first players of the electric steel guitar, Alvino Rey. This was back in the days when the instrument was at its experimental stage, at the end of the 1920s. Rey had practiced with the orchestra and everyone had been satisfied with the sound of the…

The Nashville Number System

The Nashville Number System Natural-born musicians, singers and songwriters do not necessarily have a sound grip of music theory. What they do comes from the heart, and being confronted with a studio setup can be intimidating. Neil Matthews understood this. He was born in Nashville in 1929, served with the US Army during the Korean…

The Big O

The Big O Roy Orbison is not country music, but Roy Orbison sure is Nashville. Just a few weeks ago the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened an exhibit commemorating The Big O and the 50th anniversary of Oh, Pretty Woman. Sun Records Along with Orbison’s prescription glasses and other memorabilia, the exhibit…

Scotty Moore’s world-changing guitar

Scotty Moore’s world-changing guitar One of Nashville’s most famous residents, Scotty Moore, also happens to be one of the men who changed the world. That happened 60 years ago, not far away, in Memphis. In 1954 Scotty, bass player Bill Black and a young singer with the unlikely name of Elvis Presley, got together at…

The licks of country guitar

The licks of country guitar Modern country guitar, Nashville style, has its origins in blues, bluegrass, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and way back, the courtly plucking of the lute in Medieval England and Europe. The characteristic is a picking style used with plectrum, fingers or both; and the use of open tuning to achieve licks…