Let’s say you’re standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona and you stopped the first ten people who came along. I bet most of them could name a rock ‘n’ roll guitar player. Some could name drummers and piano players too, but how many do you think could name a pedal steel player? Not too many is my bet, and that’s a shame because the Deep Tracks wouldn’t be the same without them. For some groups, the pedal steel was part of the band, like Toy Caldwell with Marshall Tucker and Rusty Young with Poco. But most bands didn’t have anybody in-house, so they brought in a session player, and it’s their work that’s at the heart of today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl.
Sometimes they were called in just to add a grace note here, or a little touch there, but other times, the pedal steel made the whole song. Take Pete Drake’s four note riff that opens and repeats throughout Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay.” That’s what makes the song work. And if you don’t believe me, listen to Duran Duran’s or Ministry’s cover versions of the song. Another of the great session players was Sneaky Pete Kleinow. After playing with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Sneaky Pete worked with just about everybody, from Little Feat to Frank Zappa. In the middle of this set we’ll hear him with Linda Rondstadt. Now this set is built around one of my favorite song-to-song segues where the last chord of the first song is an exact match for the opening chord of the second as we go from Jonathan Edward’s “Have A Good Time For Me” into Dave Mason’s “Every Woman,” featuring Bill Keith and Richard Bennett respectively on pedal steel. We’ll also hear Al Perkins playing with Manassas. But the guy who gets the most air time in this set is the late, great Red Rhodes. He’ll bring the liquid yearning to James Taylor’s “Anywhere Like Heaven” and the heartache to Willis Alan Ramsey’s “Goodbye Old Missoula.” But we’re going to start with one from the group he played with the most. Michael Nesmith’s First National Band. Here’s Red Rhodes on “Mama Nantucket.’
|Michael Nesmith||Mama Nantucket|
|Jonathan Edwards||Have a Good Time For Me|
|Dave Mason||Every Woman|
|Bob Dylan||Lay Lady Lay|
|Linda Rondstadt||It Doesn’t Matter Any More|
|James Taylor||Anywhere Like Heaven|
|Willis Alan Ramsey||Goodbye Old Missoula|
From his one and only album so far, that’s Willis Alan Ramsey from 1972 doing “Goodbye Old Missoula.” That was on Shelter Records and playing with Mr. Ramsey on that one is Leon Russell on piano, Carl Radle on bass, Jim Keltner on drums and the late, great Red Rhodes on pedal steel. Before that, from Sweet Baby James, that was Red Rhodes again playing pedal steel on James Taylor’s “Anywhere Like Heaven.” Like all the pedal steel players in the set, Red did session work with an impressive list of artists: The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Carole King, and others. But at the top of the set, we heard Red as a member of a group. Michael Nesmith’s First National Band. We heard “Mama Nantucket” from a fine album called Magnetic South. After that, it was the title track to Jonathan Edwards’ “Have a Good Time For Me.” That was Bill Keith playing pedal steel and giving us a great segue into Dave Mason’s second version of “Every Woman” featuring Richard Bennett on the instrument in question.
We followed that with the two Petes. Pete Drake playing with Bob Dylan on “Lay Lady Lay” and Sneaky Pete Kleinow playing with Linda Rondstadt on “It Doesn’t Matter Any More,” a song written by Paul Anka. After that, we heard Al Perkins with Stills and Manassas doing “Colorado.” Al’s resume includes time with the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Eagles, the James Gang, and a host of others. By the way, if you want to take a look at the set lists or the show commentaries, you can find them at my website, billfitzhugh.com. And, due to popular demand, I’ve also posted some photos of the Way Back Studios on our Facebook page, so check ‘em out. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl before you know it and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.