Theresa Kaat- Wohlert
The Steel Guitar by Jim Mathis
Like most steel guitar players, I get a lot of questions about the instrument whenever I play. The steel guitar was invented in Hawaii in 1885 when a boy named Joseph Kekuku laid a guitar on his lap and used a piece of steel to fret it instead of his fingers.
The new stype of playing and ultimately a whole new instrument grew in popularity. The San Francisco Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 introduced the steel guitar to the world and it soon became wildly popular.
The steel guitar was the first guitar to become electrified in the 1930's. In the 1950's steel guitar builders began adding pedals that changed the pitch of various strings. This allowed for much more sophisticated melodies, chords, and voicing. Pedals also made a relative straight forward instrument into one of the most complicated contraptions ever conceived for making music.
Today the pedal steel guitar is most closely associated with country music, but many steel players, myself included, are trying to break loose from the country ties, by experimenting with new sounds and techniques, to expand the instrument into many more genres.
I began playing the non-pedal or lap steel when I was eight years old in 1956. I played through high school, but didn't play much again until I was in my fifties. I bought a Emmons pedal steel guitar in 1999 and have been loving it ever since.
I also play acoustic steel guitars. I have a brass bodied silver-plated National Tricone and a wood bodied Dobro. Dobro is now made by Gibson. I even occasionally break out the 1941 Gibson Mastertone lap steel that I got when I was a child.
To learn more about the steel guitar see The Steel Guitar Forum.