Apr 302017
 

Austin Tripp
Travis Egnor
Brett Robinson
David Mills

Country Music has THREE staple pillars of it’s foundation or it’s backbone if you will. Those are in this order the songwriter, the producer, and the steel guitar in my opinion it takes those three to make a classic Country Music album. My point being Willie Nelson “Red Headed Stranger” and “Wanted The Outlaws” as two prime examples that had all three. Shooter will tell you rapidly “Wanted The Outlaws” was the first platinum selling Country Music album EVER and defied the sough it was initially given by Nashville in the 1970’s.

Local music as a whole contains such a plethora of well rounded steel guitarists and pickers waiting for you to discover them if you are willing to wade through the broken beer bottles and travel the worn out back alleys of America to find them. You have to look in the places most normal people wouldn’t, and you have to listen. You have to brave the heat and cold and discomfort of the fields and farms that spew forth these festivals, mostly you have to study and watch for them.

This edition of my steel guitarist series bring me to talking on a rainy Sunday afternoon with one of local music’s finest young steel players the mighty Johnny Up. I sat with him for just a few minutes and he was kind enough to spend some time with me and answered a few questions for us. So sit back and enjoy this interview with another one of Red Dirt Country’s young guns making Country Music sound so good!

I’ll be honest in this interview he peaks of many people that he looks up to and admires doing things for him and today, he truly passed it on to me by taking a few minutes out to become involved with this project. This is MY intention to bring forth the young people playing steel in the honky tonks of today, and educating people on this whole world of unknown REAL Country Music whether it’s Nashville, Texas or Oklahoma. It’s out there waiting for YOU to support and love on it. And the people that play it are vastly talented and have become very good friends, I never met him yet but we truly connected today and appreciated one another. I must say he was really a great guy!

 

GHC:

How did you get started playing the steel guitar?

Mr. Johnny:

I started out playing classical guitar, I was moved to an arts high school where you could major in arts programs and that’s how I started learning how to read music and classical technique. I ended up going to the University Of Oklahoma for that. I dropped out of school and didn’t do anything with music for a while. I was living in Baton Rouge and met some guys that were into the same kind of music I was, everything Parsons, and that was the first time the steel guitar really caught me. I joined a band called the Way Goners out of Hammond Louisiana and started playing pedal steel. It took a couple years before I was any good at it, but pretty much from day one I started performing with it. A lot of four hour bar gigs forced me to learn 40 or 50 licks at a time.

GHC:

Do you play pedal steel or straight steel, or both?

Mr. Johnny:

I play pedal steel, yes

GHC:

Whom did you start playing for after The Way Goners?

Mr. Johnny:

I moved to Oklahoma City and started playing with John Moreland out of Tulsa, and Jeff Hobbs out of Ardmore. I made an album with John Moreland And The Dustbowl Souls. It’s called “In the Throes”.

GHC:

You played For Kaitlin Butts too right?

Mr. Johnny:

Yes, and Cody Jinks and Zane Williams, whole bunch of people really…

GHC:

Who influenced most as a young player?

Mr. Johnny:

The album that I remember studying the most was “High In The Rockies” by Jason Boland. You know it’s got Roger Ray on it, and he’s also an Okie. He’s somebody I really looked up to and I got a chance to open for the Stragglers pretty early on in my career. I was playing with Jeff Hobbs and after the Stragglers set he came offstage with people coming at him, trying to greet him but he made a bee line towards me and asked if I was Johnny. I was kind of star struck and said yeah. He told me how much he enjoyed my stuff with John Moreland, told me to keep it up. That meant a lot to me that someone I looked up to was listening and thought I was on the right track. It truly motivated me early on.

GHC:

If someone new came up to you and asked I’m a kid I’m new and I would like advice, what would you tell them?

Mr. Johnny:

I would say don’t think you have to have certain equipment or sound like other people. Until this past year I had yet to take a real lesson on pedal steel. And it was several years before I ever saw anybody play one in person. It all contributed to my sound. I know I don’t sound like other people and I know i probably have bad techniques, but I have always found my own voice through not knowing how to sound like other people. When people hear my steel guitar they know it’s me. I also have a bunch of instructional videos on my personal Youtube page  GO HERE to see what he has up to offer you free of charge!

GHC:

That answered my next question, you are very unique you don’t sound like anybody else. Wade Bowen came to town and had Miss Kaitlin with him I was hoping I’d get to meet you. I’m enjoying Country Music even more now from these interviews, because I have a better understanding of people like you.

Mr. Johnny

Hopefully Kaitlin reads this! My first steel guitar was, you know everybody goes out and gets a Sho Bud Maverick that had sixty owners, where as I had a Fender steel with three pedals and one knee lever. I didn’t know it even had a knee lever until I was boxing it back up to ship it to the next guy. There’s so much I didn’t know that I had to learn on my own. Making my own repairs on it, the guitar I bought next I bought seen only in pictures. I didn’t know what to look for, so when it wasn’t until the the guitar arrived that I noticed the under carriage was all gunked up and dirty, levers not pulling true. I took the whole guitar apart and cleaned it. I put it all back together as best as I could not knowing exactly how the changer and tension works. Just getting it to work right made me a better player. I know it had nothing to do with music really but it did help me understand a lot.

GHC:

Are you on the road full time, do you have anybody staple that you play with now?

Mr. Johnny:

I been doing a lot of studio work as of lately, but until the albums come out, you can find me with either Jacob Flint or Wink Burcham. I have an album coming out with Cole Porter Band which has the guitar player from Cody Jinks first four records..so that’ll be a cool one coming out soon. I got to play all the steel on Cody Jinks’ new album ‘I’m Not The Devil’ that’s out right now. Jeff Hobbs new album “Upward” will be released soon. There is some stuff I’ve tracked out I don’t know how far along they are but hopefully there will be new releases with Schuyler Prenger And The Dirt Road Junkies, Dylan Stewart, Johnathan White from Sons Of Strangers, Jonnah Liddell. It was great getting to work with producers like Mike McClure and Wes Sharon.

GHC:

I really enjoy including more Red Dirt into my website program and I love the differences and similarity in our local scenes.

Mr. Johnny:

I never paid much attention to the Nashville scene but to say that filling up the Exit Inn wasn’t a highlight of my career would be false.