When did you start playing steel guitar? I started in 1948 at age 11. My first steel was a Supro six-string lap model with a finish George Harrison once described as mother-of-plastic.
What tuning did you use then?The E major tuning.
What did you want to do before you took up music? Boxing was my primary interest but my father played the guitar and loved the steel guitar, so it was through him that I was introduced to the steel guitar sound.
When did you first add pedals to your guitar and what did they do? My first pedal guitar was a Bigsby eight string triple neck with four pedals. Speedy West was my favorite steel guitar player and I heard he was playing a Bigsby, so I ordered one like his.
Paul Bigsby was making one pedal steel a month with a two-year waiting period. I ordered mine in 1952 and received it in 1954 while working in Detroit, Michigan.
A few months before my delivery date, the song Slowly was released. I recognized the intro and turnaround as a pedal sound so I called Mr. Bigsby and asked him to put the "Slowly" tuning on the outside neck.
The original E9th tuning from the top was E, B, G#, F#, D, B, G#, E. Pedal one pulled the B to C# and the G# to A. Pedal two pulled the D to E, B to C#, and G# to A. Both pedals down gave you an A6 chord. The third pedal lowered the Bs of an E6 tuning for an F# ninth chord. I don't remember what the fourth pedal did.
Did you ever use a coat hanger? I never had to deal with coat hangers. The Bigsby was my first experience with pedals.
Who was your biggest inspiration? I can't pick one over the other. My first inspiration was Roy Wiggins. Roy was using the E Major tuning, which made it easier for me to find my way around the guitar. After that I drew from Jerry Byrd, Speedy West, and Joaquin Murphey.