Just as long as the guitar plays

A commenter just sent me a snippet of his new album and even though the song is about office work, it has some great steel guitar.

What’s your favorite use of steel guitar in a song or your favorite song with steel guitar in it? Or talk about whatever…open thread.

I’d like to be a bit more recherché and put up a YouTube of this band from Athens, The Star Room Boys, that I used to love when I lived there. But I can’t find anything, so I’ll put up this predictable favorite.

132 replies
  1. 1
    dedc79 says:

    Midnight Rider by the Allman Brothers. Well, basically anything involving Duane Allman.

  2. 2
    tbone says:

    Bob wills, baby!

  3. 3
  4. 4
    cleek says:

    i’ve always dug Bonnie Raitt’s “Walking Blues”


  5. 5
    Bob says:

    I know this album is ragged a lot but I like it. Here’s a tune,


  6. 6
    Gin & Tonic says:

    May not be what everyone thinks of when they say “steel guitar”, but it’s a steel guitar. Debashish Bhattacharya, as here, for instance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r_mRktR-68

  7. 7

    Flying Burrito Brothers, “Six Days on the Road,” with Al Perkins on pedal steel. End of discussion.

  8. 8
    srv says:

    Anything Robert Randolph.

    And when you really want to get down with steel, go to church.

  9. 9

    Anything by Les Paul.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    The Dangerman says:

    Just about anything Mark Knopfler after Dire Straits (and Brothers in Arms, I suppose).

  12. 12
  13. 13
    SatanicPanic says:

    That one Kid Rock song bro

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Steeplejack says:

    Buffalo Springfield, “Kind Woman.” A beautiful ballad by Richie Furay, with pedal steel by Rusty Young. Nice piano, too.

    ETA: Steel guitar solo starts at 2:20.

  16. 16
    raven says:

    @dedc79: That’s slide not steel.

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Steeplejack says:

    Old-school steel: Hank Williams, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

  19. 19
    raven says:

    I didn’t know you lived here. John Neff is now with the Drive By Truckers.

  20. 20
  21. 21
    raven says:

    The Star Room Boys “Why do lonely men and women want to break. . .

    Of course the funny thing is that Dave is from Chicago!

  22. 22
    gbear says:

    This is a pretty minor favorite, but I love the song ‘Smoke’ by Joe Henry from the Trampoline album, and the pedal steel guitar lick is one of the things that make it a perfect song.

    It helps that I know the pedal steel player, although it doesn’t help to know that he stole away the girlfriend of one of his best friends (one of my house-mates. He was devastated).

  23. 23

    Open thread needs kitteh, Palin Cat or Ceiling Cat? DougJ’s thread on Putin yesterday was the inspiration for this lol.

  24. 24
    Steeplejack says:

    Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, “San Antonio Rose.” Steel guitar solo front and center at 0:30.

    Note: I’m so old that I can remember when I lived in Texas as a kid that geezers back then would routinely refer to “San Antone.” Good times.

  25. 25

    BTW what is a steel guitar? I know less about music than I know about football.

  26. 26
    Steeplejack says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Look at the video I linked here . Steel guitar close-up at 0:30.

  27. 27
    Bob says:

    @raven: Gee, not much tone wise is there? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel_guitar

  28. 28
    The Dangerman says:


    Steel Guitar as God intended it.

    Cool link; the clip says “trailer”, which implies movie, but a quick googling (a frugal google?) didn’t find it. Can help please?

    Also, since we have some good music folks around these parts, I’m looking for an Eminem (at least I think it was Eminem) song that was roughly about the Kennedy’s (or maybe about that Camelot period in general; I’m still on limited caffeine intake so far, so bear with me). All help appreciated.

  29. 29
    "Fair and Balanced" Dave says:

    If by “steel guitar” you mean actual steel guitar (e.g., pedal steel, lap steel), I’ve always liked the steel guitar parts David Gilmour plays in the intro to “Breathe” on “Dark Side of the Moon”. For slide guitar, Duane Allman’s work on “Statesboro Blues” on the “Live at the Fillmore” album is my all-time favorite.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    raven says:

    @Bob: Yea. Then there is JR Brown and his Guitsteel.

  32. 32
    DougJ says:


    Good call. It never sounded so ominous.

  33. 33
    the Conster says:


    Yes! and Give It Up Or Let Me Go. Love love love Bonnie.

  34. 34
    LABiker says:

    Everybody should be listening to this right about now.

    Luke Vibert and BJ Cole “Swing Lite” from the Stop the Panic LP, 2001:


    “Fly Hawaii” is pretty nice, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeA_fb1bnv8

  35. 35
    Professor Purple says:

    There’s lots to choose from but “Rainy Day Woman” by Waylon Jennings with Ralph Mooney on the steel is about as good as it gets. Especially the intro lick.

  36. 36
    srv says:

    @The Dangerman: It’s apparently a book with a trailer. At amazon.

    Maybe in here somewhere, the video credits arhoolie:

    Says at end of vid there’s a DVD somewhere.

  37. 37
    raven says:

    When DJ cited the Star Room Boys I assumed we were talking about pedal steel .

  38. 38
    DougJ says:


    I did mean pedal steel but truth be told I don’t know much about guitars.

  39. 39
    gbear says:

    @cleek: @the Conster: As mentioned above, slide guitar is not the same as steel guitar. You have to sit to play a steel guitar, and you use your feet and knees to control the tunings. I played in a band with a steel player and watching him play was fascinating. I had no idea how he could coordinate all that stuff (and I’m a drummer).
    Think Sneeky Pete in the Flying Burrito Brothers or Rusty Young in Poco.

  40. 40
    Steeplejack says:


    Gotta agree with you, “steel guitar” means “pedal steel guitar,” and slide, Dobro, etc., are other things.

  41. 41
    raven says:

    @DougJ: It’s all good. There is also the great William Tonks here in Athens that plays steel with about everyone!

  42. 42
    Honus says:

    @Steeplejack: I’m with you on that old school country stuff. Almost all of it had great steel guitar. George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today, and Merle Haggard’s Sing me Back Home has great solo. But I really like Pete Kleinow’s work with the Burritos, especially on Break My Mind.

  43. 43
    Honus says:

    @Steeplejack: Oh, yeah, also Mama Tried.

  44. 44
    raven says:

    @Steeplejack: But we’re old. We used Good Feelin to Know as our vows in my 1st wedding.

  45. 45
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    This John Paul Jones lap-steel version of “When the Levee Breaks”


  46. 46
    jl says:

    Some good steel guitar posted already.

    But the FSM will punish any thread on steel guitar that does not include

    Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys-Steel Guitar Rag (1936)

  47. 47
    the Conster says:


    She’s playing a National steel guitar with a bottleneck, standing up I assume. Pedal steel is a different instrument.

  48. 48
    raven says:

    @Honus: Sneaky Pete was a mofo. Bobby Black for Commander Cody was a killer too.

  49. 49
    raven says:

    @Honus: Sneaky Pete was a mofo. Bobby Black for Commander Cody was a killer too.

  50. 50
    Honus says:

    @Steeplejack: Well, yeah, and about anything by West Virginia’s own Asleep at the Wheel.

  51. 51
    Steeplejack says:

    Judy Collins, “Someday Soon.”

  52. 52
    raven says:

    Al Perkins play pedal on Torn and Frayed.

  53. 53
    Honus says:

    @raven: No argument here, form a boy that grew up listening to WWVA in the 60s, and thought every song had steel guitar.

    The Big Country was a great 50,000 watt C&W monster in those days. Every trucker in the east listened, and the station turned its signal toward Canada at night.

  54. 54
    jl says:

    And I’m a sucker for this stuff from Hawaii.

    Need to start a petition to have a concert at the WH, ’cause Obama has to be a fan, right?

    Bobby Ingano-“E Aloha No Honolulu”

  55. 55
    raven says:

    @Honus: Paw Paw. Ray and I have an uncanny resemblance and I shot the shit with him outside of a show in the 70’s and he thought he was talking in a mirror! He is a good bit bigger than I am.

  56. 56
    cleek says:


    Jr. Brown is my steel guy.

  57. 57
    Honus says:

    @raven: Great song. I love Ritchie Furay’s ringing voice in the a capella part at the beginning

  58. 58
    biff diggerence says:

    Marrakesh Express. But, I’m an old fuck.

  59. 59
  60. 60
    raven says:

    @cleek: Guitsteel.

  61. 61
    jl says:

    Hawaiian Steel Guitar Classics 1927 – 1938

  62. 62
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Steeplejack: You wouldn’t call certain types of resonator steel guitar? I thought that’s what they were made of.

  63. 63
    raven says:

    @Honus: Poco was really good, I thought Rusty was Neil’s brother for years.

  64. 64
    raven says:

    @SatanicPanic: I think some of us just differentiate between a pedal steel and the rest. Not that one or the other is better.

  65. 65
    jl says:

    @Steeplejack: Damn, how did I miss that? I was looking for it. Thanks. Glad it was the first one posted.

  66. 66
    divF says:

    “Four Wheel Drive” written by Buddy Emmons. The best performances I’ve seen are one at the Keystone Berkeley in the 1970’s by Lucky Oceans when he was with Asleep at the Wheel , and this one by Herby Wallace.

  67. 67
    cleek says:

    i’m counting it.

  68. 68
    jl says:

    Put on your cowboy hat, take off the silver spurs, and sit down with a nice tropical drink.

    Bobby Ingano-“Hula Blues”

  69. 69
    Steeplejack says:


    That’s what many of them are made of, but in musical parlance—perhaps old-school parlance—when someone called for steel guitar they typically meant pedal steel guitar. If they were referring to the other they said Dobro or lap-steel. And it has to do with the unique sound of the instrument, not just the construction materials.

  70. 70
    raven says:

    @cleek: Your Wanted by the Police and My Wife Thinks Your Dead!

  71. 71
    MomSense says:

    I guess this doesn’t count according to the definition we are following, but I don’t care!

    Booker White Aberdeen Mississippi Blues.


  72. 72
    J.D. Rhoades says:

    There’s also the lap steel guitar–basically a steel guitar with no pedals.

    Ben Harper-Why Must You Always Dress In Black


    David Lindley used to play one with Jackson Browne:


  73. 73
    Montysano says:

    When we lived in New Orleans in the 80s, we were huge fans of King Sunny Ade. He made nice use of pedal steel:

    Ja Funmi

    One of my favorite albums of 2013 was the debut album by Muscle Shoals band Belle Adair. It’s really lovely, spacey alt-folk/country:

    The Unwelcome Guest

  74. 74
    Trollhattan says:

    Happened to catch Robert Randolph front for the Slide Brothers last year and it was a mind-blowing show. (Quick googling) Hey, it was this show right here.


    Just phenomenal musicianship. There was a talk beforehand in which I learned the slide guitar filled in for the church organ in congregations too poor to afford one. Another in the infinite list of Things I Didn’t Know.

    I need to catch Keb Mo and Jerry Douglas someday. The latter hopefully with Allison Krause.

  75. 75
    Ned Ludd says:

    The “steel” in steel guitar refers to the metal bar that’s used in the left hand, not the composition of the guitar itself. That said, “steel guitar” is generally understood to mean a type of guitar that is played flat either in the player’s lap (lap steel), or with legs (table steel, etc.). “Pedal steel guitar” has foot pedals and knee levers that change the pitch of sets of strings to create different chord voicings, but not all steel guitars have these.

    Regular guitars or resonator guitars (dobros) played with slides or steels are generally not referred to as “steel guitar”.

  76. 76
  77. 77
    Steeplejack says:

    Bobby Bare, “Detroit City.”

  78. 78
    Steeplejack says:

    How could I forget?! Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces.”

  79. 79
    jl says:


    Just in case Brown’s contraption is considered steel guitar:

    Junior Brown-My Wife Thinks You’re Dead

  80. 80
    john f says:

    Hank Williams, the short solo in I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

    Led Zeppelin That’s the Way

    Kelly Willis Happy With That from her What I Deserve album.

  81. 81
    burnspbesq says:


    Anything Robert Randolph

    True. But first and foremost “The March.” And the version from the 2004 Crossroads Guitar Festival beats the version from Live at the Wetlands.

    The first song I ever heard that had pedal steel in it was the leadoff track fron The Gilded Palace of Sin, “Christine’s Tune.”

    Best use of an effects pedal to make a pedal steel sound like something else: Rusty Young. Never figured out how he was able to make a pedal steel sound like a Hammond B-3.

    Dobro should probably be its own category.

  82. 82
    MomSense says:


    Love Junior Brown!!

  83. 83
    Trollhattan says:

    Also, too, slide, not steel guitar from the master–Muddy Waters and his band circa 1971. Watch him make that Telecaster cry.


  84. 84
  85. 85
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Ned Ludd: OK that makes sense. Never was clear on the definitions

  86. 86
    Misha says:

    “The Train, the Drink, and the Dawn” by Kill County. (That’s a location video shoot; the studio track is on their Bandcamp page.)

  87. 87
  88. 88
    Steeplejack says:

    @Ned Ludd:

    Agree with this. Good clarification.

  89. 89
    Steeplejack says:


    “You can stay, boy, but that’s gotta go.”

  90. 90
    Montysano says:

    I was in Nashville recently and caught the regular Monday night show by the local studio all-star band The Time Jumpers, and was lucky to sit about 8′ away from the legendary Paul Franklin:

    Together Again

    My mind was properly blown.

  91. 91
    Steeplejack says:


    I was waiting for you to drop in some Poco, but I can’t wait any longer: “You Better Think Twice.”

  92. 92
    Montysano says:

    @divF: this one by Herby Wallace

    Holy Jeebus in the key of E9, that dude was amazing!

  93. 93
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    Al Perkins on Gram Parsons’ version of ‘Love Hurts’ from Grievous Angel…

    And if you like truly crazy, there’s always the fabulous Speedy West w/ Jimmy Nichols, from Tennessee Williams’ band in the 50’s…

  94. 94
    What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    I have to echo others with the Bob Wills recs. IMO the best use of the pedal steel in the past 20 years of rock is Son Volt’s The Wind.

  95. 95
    BGinCHI says:

    Damn, really late to this thread but I LOVE that first Star Room Boys record!

    After my time in Athens, alas, so I didn’t get to see them play.

  96. 96
    burnspbesq says:

    I have a Buddy Emmons LP from around 1975 on which he played the Pachelbel Canon in D. Pretty amazing stuff.

  97. 97
    Bottyguy says:

    Whit Wright of American Aquarium, “Clark Ave” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gANOVAH5FLI

  98. 98
  99. 99
    cintibud says:

    I first got turned on to steel guitar from Neil Young’s “Harvest” album.

    Edit: Oh, and Jr. Brown!

  100. 100
    burnspbesq says:


    Paul Franklin

    There is some great steel playing on the album he recently did with Vince Gill, Bakersfield.

  101. 101
    BGinCHI says:

    @raven: Gold!

    I love the song “Gastonia.” And that was recorded for a Patterson Hood wedding party! Oh mama.

  102. 102
    Amy says:

    I haven’t scanned the WHOLE thread to see if this song is mentioned yet, but since AMC is criminally under-recognized, odds are excellent that it hasn’t been. Let me just toss into the ring American Music Club’s gorgeous Firefly from the album California. Can’t find a good mp3 or video, sorry … :-(

  103. 103
    raven says:

    @BGinCHI: We aim to please.

  104. 104
    realbtl says:

    Rusty Young pre-Poco used to play with a local rock band around Boulder CO in the late 60’s. He absolutely killed playing Hendrix on the pedal steel.

  105. 105
    Steeplejack says:

    One more: Patsy Cline, “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

  106. 106
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Late to this but “Rainbows All Over Your Blues” by Jon Sebastian was the first time I really noticed steel guitar, having grown up in San Francisco and not, you know, Nashville. It seemed like a pretty great example of pedal steel playing but what did I know, but when I asked someone who followed that stuff who “Buddy Emmons” was he said oh boy, let me tell you… turns out to have been by one of the best if not the best ever. Great solo.


  107. 107
    The Republic of Stupidity says:


    Ya know, that does sound good…

  108. 108
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @Ned Ludd: Thanks, I hadn’t even clicked to play the video before I commented, I assumed we were talking about pedal steel when I read “steel guitar” because yeah, as you say.

    What’s in that video is usually referred to as “slide” guitar, not steel.

  109. 109
    Viperbuck says:

    @Steeplejack, @raven, @cintibud

    You 3 are all referencing the same cat. The great Ben Keith got his start in Nashville playing in Faron Young’s band and spent the early ’60s playing sessions including “I Fall To Pieces” for Patsy Cline and “Detroit City” for Bobby Bare.

    When Neil Young came to town to do the Johnny Cash Show and start recording the “Harvest” album, producer Elliot Mazer called Ben Keith when Neil requested a pedal steel player. A musical and personal friendship was formed and Ben played on many of Neil’s albums until he passed away in July of 2010.

    I’m sure Neil paid him well, but his ship came in big time when he produced Jewel’s debut album which sold more than 10 million copies.

  110. 110
    James E Powell says:

    Zevon – Bad luck streak in dancing school- most of the album

  111. 111
    Steeplejack says:

    @Bill E Pilgrim:

    Gee, you made me realize I did the same thing. I didn’t listen to the Stones song in the original post but immediately went into a YouTube spiral thinking of great “[pedal] steel guitar” songs.

  112. 112
    Steeplejack says:


    Great information! Thanks.

    My earliest musical memories are of “country” music, so steel guitar has always sounded “normal” to me—not just some exotic instrument brought in for effect.

  113. 113
    Fred says:

    “High Time” by Grateful Dead. Not fancy but Garcia could play that thing with soul.

  114. 114
    A Ghost To Most says:


    John Neff left the Drive-By Truckers a couple months ago. Too bad; he is my favorite steel player.

  115. 115
    raven says:

    @Viperbuck: Thanks.

  116. 116
    The Illogical Planner says:

    Can’t believe it got this far w/ no one mentioning the pedal steel in Joni Mitchell’s California. It always takes my breath away.


  117. 117
    kindness says:

    I have problems with ‘best’. I mean, as with this question there are so many great ones, you can’t really rate one to another especially if it’s a subtly different type of song.

    For instance, the Country and Western peddle steel guitarists are certainly the most prolific but the few rock songs that incorporate it (Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Byrds, Old & In The Way, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Poco etc) it is also frequently a very important part of the melody/counterpoint. How do you say one is better than another? I don’t.

  118. 118
    MaximusNYC says:

    This is not steel guitar (it’s synthesizers and drum machines), but it is a great ditty about office work:


    Oh, and it’s NSFW, so listen on headphones if you’re in your cubicle…

  119. 119
    Guiseppe Madre says:

    Lap steel rather than pedal, but still a great tune and definitely not your standard steel guitar song/solo.


  120. 120
    LTT says:

    @DougJ “and even though the song is about office work”

    What the fuck is wrong with you? Are songs supposed to be about only certain things? Fucking hell.

  121. 121
    Bishop Bag says:

    @Fred: Dating myself but the Grateful Dead shows 69 – 71 always had the New Riders of the Purple Sage second billed and Jerry Garcia would play with them and then do the regular Dead show. He was amazing on peddle steel and always looked like he was having a blast playing it. Fun Times!! I really miss Jerry…

  122. 122
    Billy K. says:

    @DougJ: Star Room Boys? Now that is a name I haven’t heard in a long time…

    I assume you mean the sorta modern-loungy honky-tonk group. They swung their tour van through my old sleepy town many years ago. Still have their CD somewhere. Great band.

  123. 123
    DougJ says:


    No, I just don’t expect steel guitar in a song about office work.

  124. 124
    LT says:

    @DougJ: Sorry for the especially grumpy comment, but that sturuck me like “Oh Bob Dylan’s okay – I just wish he could sing” kind of comment that bugs fucking hell out of me. Why is such a huge portion of our culture so fucking stupid about music, about art, about fucking life? It’s depressing.

    I guess I should know you better. Never mind.

  125. 125
    DougJ says:


    No problem. I do wish Bob Dylan could sing though. ;)

  126. 126
    dp says:

    There’s a rock band from New Orleans called the Revivalists who have pedal steel as part of their regular instrumentation, and they are awesome. Check them out: http://www.therevivalists.com/

    I am a huge fan of Dobro/National guitars. Maybe my favorite song with one is Jerry Douglas playing “Daylight” with Alison Krass & Union Station. It’s the first song on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC194-JrTw0

  127. 127
    Ned Ludd says:

    @gbear: Pedal steel is definitely an intimidating instrument to approach but I find it much easier than drums. With drums, you really need to be able to move each limb to an independent rhythm. That’s not really what’s happening with pedal steel. It’s really about sets of combinations of pedals and levers– a given combination of pedals and levers will produce a particular chord voicing in exactly the same way that you use the fingers of your left hand to fret chord patterns on a regular 6-string guitar. So your limbs aren’t really moving independently like with drumming.

  128. 128
    DissidentFish says:

    The live version of Heart of the Night by Poco from the No Nukes cd. Rusty Young, I think, on steel dueling with Phil Kenzie on sax. Two sometimes dubious instruments burning all the doubt away.

  129. 129
    Dave says:

    First woman ever inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame… Cindy Cashdollar. Amazing instrumentalist based in Austin, originally from Woodstock, NY. Plays lap steel, dobro and Weisenbornn with wonderful technique and musicality. Check her out on YouTube, and also check her first album, “Slide Show”… If you like steel guitar, you’ll love her. Her live version of Remington Ride with Red Volkaert is great.

  130. 130
    Bill says:

    Gotta be Harry Nilsson’s Joy.

  131. 131
    MvR says:

    @Steeplejack: Yeah, I was going to say Hank’s steel player, or for a different kind of steel guitar, Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night”.

  132. 132
    MvR says:

    Oh yeah, David Lindley’s version of “Mercury Blues” is wonderful!

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