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The Lashley Chronicles - Letter 15

This letter is one of many letters written detailing the development of the pedal guitar, and the birth of the Emmons Guitar. It also includes standardization of the tuning and copedent, as well as historical commentary. 

The letters were written from Ron Lashely Sr. to Mr. Paul J. Graupp, the editor for "Pushin Pedals", the pedal guitar section of Fretts magazine, which was published by Fender Sales.


Scroll down for the complete transcription of this letter. The spelling and grammar shown below is exaclty how it was written by Ron Lashley Sr.





March 6, 1964

Mr. Paul J. Graupp

CMR 2925, 2137 Sq.

APO 123

New York, New York

Dear Mr. Graupp:

The following is some information from “The Music City News” that might be helpful in writing your article:

                                       BIG E:  FASTEST GUN IN TOWN

He’s the fastest gun in Music City but his gift for grease lightning gun play is slow motion compared to his hair trigger flair for steel guitar wizardry.  Side-kicks call him Big E.  His real handle is Buddy Emmons and guitars not guns have made him a small legend in music circles.  His reputation, and it’s a big one was carved with hot licks, not hot lead.

In white levis, denim jacket, checkered shirt, stetson and wearing a black holstered six iron strapped to his leg.  Big E with a gun alright and he’s the only one to out draw himself - - he drilled himself in the knee when he got too quick.  With a foolish schoolboy grin, he explained the accident to his wife after he had the wound treated and got back from the “boondocks” to his home in the Music City suburbs.  He had been practicing his fast draw when he plugged himself.

Buddy is the leader of the local clan of sidemen; big name stars practically maintain a running gunbattle with each other to snag him as a regular hired gun (or rather guitar); audiences often holler louder for him than they do for the star of the show.  He's a colorful personality in his own right - - -but Big E claims the only color in his career is black - - says he’s the unluckiest man in the world.  His cover-girl wife backs him in this:  “Buddy is just accident prone.  He’s constantly hexed.  He had rheumatic fever and miraculously got off without permanent heart damage; last December he tumbled off a motel balcony and broke his hip and there was the gun accident - - - and on and on.”

Trouble hasn’t marked the slender steel guitar whiz.  He has the carefree spirit of a south wind and a trademark grin that’s as easy an natural as his quiet drawl and good manners.

He holds an affection for his fans who mob him after shows and he enjoys people but his real nature pegs him as a loner.  When he’s at home, mixes only with other musicians who look up to him as an unappointed leader.  He has an inquisitive mind that keeps him off by himself reading or developing some hobby - - he has taken instruction on taxes and even took a Karate course.

But everything else takes a back seat to his guitar.  This is the real Buddy Emmons  Big E finds himself in a twilight zone all his own when he plays the steel.

His wife again: “Deep inside, Buddy is a man of moods - - - he can express himself, and his moods with his guitar.”

“I am proud that I broke the steel into a new field,” he states.

In expressing himself, Buddy has become possibly the most sought after steel man in the biz.  He’s currently with George Jones and the Jones Boys after leaving the Ray Price band after two years.  Pick the top C&W stars and Buddy has probably worked for them.  Little Jimmy Dickens ranks as one of his favorites.

Buddy recalls, “ONce Jimmy wanted me to record (Buddy sings occasionally on road shows), but I told him that I’d rather be a good steel player than a bad singer.”

Audiences and most musicians figure he’s not just good, he’s great.

Married with two children, Buddy is looking to the future.  After playing something like 150 to 200 road dates a year for some time, 27 - year old Emmons has private social security project going - - he’s pulling together his own commercial guitar - - the Emmons Stereo Guitar.  He expects to have the product in production in the next two to four months.  This is a long range project for him and he hopes his savvy of the steel and his knack for making it tal :will enable him to build a guitar that will be an instrument that will give the steel player a more versatile guitar.

Lightning fingered Emmons figures the guitar factory and his first solo elpee (LP) - - recorded on Mercury and waxed in New York City with top rated jazz musicians, as the fulfillment of two great ambitions.

Under a picture of Buddy and his wife were the following comments: Colorful Buddy Emmons figures one of his biggest feats was snagging glamorous Georgene Kenney right from under the nose of shrewdie Col. Tom Parker.  Mrs. Emmons, now for eight years, Gigi (her nickname) was Col. Tom’s private secretary when she was introduced to the wizard backstage at the Grand Ole Opry by C&W star Anita Carter, her roommate then.  Buddy married her six months later and Col. Tom, along with Elvis, had to manage without gorgeous Gigi.

The following is from the back of the album entitled “Steel guitar jazz - Buddie Emmons”:


Traditionally associated with Hawaiien and hillbilly bands, it is quite understandable that a steel guitar jazz album may seem a bit incongruous to the hip aficionado.  But Steel Guitar Jazz should convince the most demanding purist that in the right hands, the steel guitar is a formidable jazz instrument.  The right hands in this case belong to Buddie Emmons, whose remarkable dexterity and unique conception show him to be a guitarist and jazzman of considerable talent.

Until this recording, the steel guitar’s contact with jazz has been at best, peripheral.  It was occasionally used as a novelty by the jazz bands of the Swing Era.  In 1939, Andy Kirk had a minor hit, Floyd’s Guitar Blues, using Floyd Smith on an electric steel guitar; a few years later, Alvino Rey  became the rage with his “ singing guitar”.  More recently, the sometime jazzman, Les Paul has used the instrument in a series of best selling gimmick pop recordings.

But this Buddie Emmons album is no gimmick.  Working with four uncompromising jazzmen - the fantastically talented Bobby Scott, the versatile Jerome Richardson, the smoothly swinging Charlie Persip and the propulsive Art Davis - Emmons has successfully and compellingly integrated the steel guitar’s broad tonal timbres into a modern jazz setting.

Unless you dig Hawaiian or Country an Western Music, you may have never seen a steel guitar; it is an oddly shaped instrument, practically all bar and neck.  All modern steel guitars are amplified, the most popular types having a long string board supported by telescoping legs.  When the whole contraption is open and inoperation it looks like a steep stringed ironing board  Some of the very elaborate models are rigged up with batteries of pedals which produce various tone qualities.  These plus other adjustments and controls can create a whole bag of tricky effects - organ tones and sharp, penetration sounds that imitate various reed instruments.  

Listening to Buddie Emmons, I think you’ll agree that he makes tasteful and judicious use of the steel guitar’s peculiar slides, gliss and slurred effects, never letting them get out of hand but rather using them to add just right harmonious seasoning.  For example, on There Will Be Another You, Emmons shades and sustains Jerome Richardson’s pretty soprano statements using deep, organ - like chords.  Again on Where Or When, the guitarist adds a piquant touch, punctuating another lovely  Richardson soprano chorus with incisive oboe - like effects.

Richardson changes styles and saxophones with ease, assurance and authority throughout the album.  From an essentially lyric approach on soprano, he moves to a hard Coltran - ish tenor sound on Gonna Build A Mountain and Oleo and thence to a relaxed, velvety, bluesy conception on I Can’t Stop Loving You.

Note the rapport between Emmons and Richardson on the Sonny Rollins piece, Oleo.   In the opening and closing ensemble statements, the saxophone and guitar seem to fuse, sounding almost like a two man reed section.  The solos here are particularly outstanding.  Emmons’ solo lines are long, lean and flowing, full of eighth and sixteenth note clusters in the best Charlie Christian tradition.  Scott follows with a short, ebullient interlude, picking up the guitarist’s ideas, commenting on them and tossing them back at Emmons for further exploration.  Emmons and Richardson also work nicely together on Horace Silver’s The Preacher.  Here the two spar delightfully, “trading fours” before closing with the unison saxophone guitar voicing.

Bobby Scott’s work deserves special comment.  Not only are his solos superb but his accompaniment enhances the whole proceedings.  On tracks like Cherokee, Anytime and Bluemmons, he not only feeds Emmons chords but thoughtfully supplements the guitarists' solos.

The group empathy throughout Steel Guitar Jazz is in the finest jazz tradition.  In lieu of the every-man-for-himself approach that has characterized many modern “blowing sessions;” each of these men constructs his choruses with and ear to what the soloist before and after him has to say.  This contributes to an overall group feeling and has resulted in a recording that is relaxed, cohesive and always swinging.

The songs on the album are:





Yours truly,

Ronald Lashley

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