The rebirth of the uke

The rebirth of the uke Stay around long enough, and as the saying goes, what was once fashionable, and then unfashionable, becomes fashionable once more. This is certainly the case with the ukulele. This humble member of the lute family came out of Hawaii, having mutated from the Portuguese machete, a four-stringed instrument that originated…

The echo sound

The echo sound Although it was the Echoplex tape delay unit that defined much of the rockabilly sound throughout the 1960s, it wasn’t the first tape echo machine on the market. Sound engineers had begun to experiment in the late 1940s with units that could be used in recording studios and which were portable enough…

Making El Paso

Marty Robbins was a country star who was propelled to super-stardom in both the country and the pop charts by what must rate as one of Nashville’s most significant productions. El Paso however very nearly never got made. Gunfighter ballads Robbins had scored four number one country hits before he started to pressure his label,…

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…