Bobby Black – 70 Years of Swinging Steel
It’s easy for people who appreciate music, to completely overlook some incredibly talented musicians from yesteryear. Not all were famous as Glen Campbell, Chet Atkins, or Roy Clark. Like Arizona-born trailblazing, world-renowned pedal steel guitarist Bobby Black. Along with his younger brother the late 6-string guitarist Larry Black, both grace this CD of 12-tunes that at times sends off sparks in all directions.
On 70 Years of Swinging Steel (Drops Oct 1–Little Village) the proof is in instrumentals & vocalizations that show that there was indeed masterful guitar playing long before Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Roy Buchanan, or Stevie Ray Vaughn.
The short “Arkansas Traveler,” (presumedly from a Big Jim DeNoon radio broadcast) is fiery as the guitarists play fast marvelously, cleanly & with taste. Many are live takes with announcer break-ins to give the songs source credibility & show how they were presented originally.
“Tippin’ In,” (recorded at the Balconades Ballroom, San Jose, CA (1956-7) is also a stirring performance but the added charm: durable trumpet solos by Jim Hurley. The recordings are field-oriented, crude but they don’t sound amateurish. They’re well-recorded for the era, location & conditions.
Clearer is cut 5 – “Water Baby Blues,” (location unknown) taped in the early 60s. It’s a hurricane of notes with driving drums. A captivating example of talent caught in the web of another era. Larry & Bobby indulge in a cutting contest captured on this hot jump blues with swing jazz riffs.
Cut 1 & 2 (“Panhandle Rag,” & “Lady Be Good” recorded at Hale’s Dept. Store, San Jose, CA in 1954-5). Track 7 “Take the A Train,” may appeal to younger listeners since it was studio-recorded in 1991-2. One of 4 last studio songs by Larry who passed away soon after. “Guitar Haven,” is a marvel. Black imitated many well-known steel guitarists in their own tunings & called out their names.
Bobby was best-known as the pedal steel guitarist for Commander Cody & the Lost Planet Airmen, (a decade younger than most of the rowdier members), Asleep at the Wheel, & the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Commander Cody guitarist John Tichy thought the band came together more professionally when Black was added. Jerry Garcia won awards as best pedal steel guitarist & was always embarrassed. Garcia felt if Bobby Black was alive & playing he was the supreme pedal steel guitarist.
Songs on this CD were compiled by Myles Boisen (music vet & studio pro) who played with Bobby. The pedal steel evolved as an instrument by musicians such as Mr. Black & by the 1940s became an essential part of country music. Bobby & Larry are joined by other musicians on these 12 songs, but not always confirmed. Color image courtesy: Aaron Rubin.
The 39-minute CD: available @ Little Village Foundation https://stores.portmerch.com/littlevillagefoundation/music.html