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Duplicated in SP Mode
Real Time Duplication
Nationally distributed by
Rounder Records,
One Camp Street,
Cambridge, MA 02140
Representation to Music Stores by
Mel Bay Publications
© ® 1997 Vestapol Productions
A division of Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, Inc.
Since the beginning of it’s popularity in America early
in this century, slide guitar – whether played on the lap
or with a bottleneck – has undergone a profound
evolution. Few modern guitar styles have such a complex
history and the diversity of players who have adapted
and interpreted the method in so many musical contexts.
The terms lap-style and bottleneck are useful in
understanding how current styles of slide guitar playing
were developed. Lap-style refers to the method where
an acoustic or electric guitar built with high string action
is laid flat on the lap and fretted with a steel bar or
cylinder. Bottleneck is the term for playing a regular
guitar with a metal or glass tube (such as the neck of a
wine bottle or a glass medicine vile) slipped over the
third or fourth finger of the left hand. Both techniques
can sustain and bend notes in ways that emulate various
nuances of the human voice.
Most music historians agree that lap-style slide guitar
originated in Hawaii, several decades after the islanders
first became acquainted with the guitar through the
vaqueros who were brought from Spanish Mexico to
Hawaii by King Kamehameha III to control the islands’
free-ranging cattle population in 1833. The vaqueros
returned to California only a few months after their arrival,
but the handful of guitars that were sold, traded or left
behind were objects of intense fascination among the
locals for many years to come.
In his introduction to “Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar”
(Oak), Keola Beamer writes “Since they had only a brief
exposure to the playing of Spanish guitar, the Hawaiians
were in the position of having to invent a way of playing
it almost on their own.” Since most of the Hawaiian music
at the time was based on major scales, Hawaiian guitarists
began tuning the strings to a major chord so that they
could play the basic chord progressions of their native
songs simply by barring the strings at a given fret.
Precisely when and how the lap style of playing slide was
discovered is unclear. One popular legend has it that
ar ound 1894 a guitarist named Joseph Kekuku
accidentally dropped either a comb or pocketknife on
his guitar strings and, intrigued by the sound, began
experimenting with sliding the back of it on the strings to
play notes with the guitar laid flat on his lap. Another
legend has it that Gabirel Davion, a kidnapped Indian
sailor who jumped ship in Honolulu, first played lap-style
Hawaiian slide guitar at King Kalahau’s 1886 Jubilee
Celebration. What seems to be certain is that by the turn
of the century, lap-style slide guitar, played in an “open”
tuning with a steel cylinder or bar, was well integrated
into Hawaiian music.
Americans began taking notice of Hawaiian slide
guitar music around 1915, after the Royal Hawaiian
Quartette had wowed record crowds with their novel
music at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in
San Francisco. 78 rpm records of Hawaiian music
became immensely popular in the years that followed,
and it wasn’t long before its appeal spread beyond
America to Europe and India. In 1919, a young Hawaiian
guitarist from Honolulu named Sol Hoopii stowed away
aboard an ocean liner that docked in San Francisco. After
making his way to Los Angeles in 1927, Hoopii formed a
trio and began recording hot, improvised Hawaiian lapstyle solos over jazz and blues tunes. By the mid 1930s,
popular lap-style guitarists such as Hoopii and Roy
Smeck had devised more sophisticated tunings and
playing techniques, including slanting the bar across the
strings to play more intricate chords. Hoopii was so
successful that Hollywood featured him in movies such
as “Bird of Paradise,” “Waikiki Wedding,” “Song Of The
Islands,” and several Charlie Chan films.
Some American guitar makers responded to the
explosive interest in Hawaiian slide guitar by flooding the
market with cheap, mail-order instruments. Others took
the opportunity more seriously, such as the Dopyera
Brothers, who introduced the resonator guitar in the late
1920s. Much louder and more flashy than the typical
acoustic guitar of the time, the distinctive, bell-like sound
of the wooden-bodied Dobro and metal-bodied National
guitars was nearly ubiquitous on records made in the
1930s. By this time lap-style slide guitar had been
adopted by early countr y musicians, such as Frank
Hutchinson, Cliff Carlisle and Pete Kirby, who eventually
became known as “Brother Oswald” with Roy Acuff’s
Smokey Mountain Boys. Oswald’s Hawaiian-style Dobro
playing fit right into the context of Acuff’s hillbilly songs,
which were popularized throughout the country and
overseas on radio programs such as the Grand Ole Opry.
Those broadcasts undoubtedly were a powerful influence
on musicians such as Buck Graves and Tut Taylor, whose
innovative playing made the Dobro a popular instrument
in bluegrass music in the 1950s.
The development of the electrically amplified lapstyle guitar by Western Swing pioneer Bob Dunn (Milton
Brown and His Musical Brownies) also had a major
impact. Dunn’s jazzy playing and technical innovations
spawned the genre of “steel guitar,” later popularized by
players such as Leon McAuliffe (Bob Wills and his Texas
Playboys) and Don Helms (Hank Williams), who further
modified the tunings, techniques and overall design of
the instrument itself, fusing two, three and even four
electric lap guitars together to make huge, coffee tablesized instruments that stood up on adjustable, screw-in
The invention of the pedal steel guitar, with foot
pedals and knee levers that raise and lower the pitches
of the strings, nearly rendered traditional steel guitars
obsolete in the 1960s, although players such as Speedy
West and Lucky Oceans kept it alive through the 1960s
and 1970s with their excellent recordings with Jimmy
Bryant and Asleep at The Wheel, respectively. More
recently, lap-style steel guitar has enjoyed a resurgence
through players such as David Lindley, whose soaring
solos have been the hook of many of Jackson Browne’s
hit records, and the eccentric, retro-country musings of
Junior Brown.
Contrary to the notion that bottleneck slide guitar
was derived from Hawaiian lap-style playing, an account
in W.C. Handy’s 1941 autobiography indicates that it
probably evolved from an entirely different musical
tradition. Handy wrote that while waiting for a train in
Tutwiler Mississippi, he experienced the “weirdest music”
he had ever heard as he listened to a black guitarist play
by pressing a knife on the strings in 1903. Since this
significantly predates the Hawaiian music boom, it seems
more likely that bottleneck slide guitar was originally
based on the oral tradition of work songs and field hollers,
and on ancient African melodies played on the bowed,
single-string instruments indigenous to Western Africa.
Bottleneck slide guitar and the blues are practically
inseparable. Although the blues is more a state of mind
than a time or place, the Yazoo River Basin region of
nor theaster n Mississippi between the Yazoo and
Tallahatchie Rivers was the epicenter of rural Southern
blues in the 1930s. Many of the great original bottleneck
slide blues guitarists emerged fr om this fer tile
bottomland; Barbecue Bob, Son House, Charley Patton,
Robert Johnson, Willie Brown, Bukka White, and many
more. Recorded extensively by “race” record labels in
the late 1920s and 1930s, their passionate and often
primitive blues influenced an entire generation of great
blues bottleneck players such as Muddy Waters and
Elmore James, who adapted the rural, acoustic styles of
bottleneck slide they learned in Mississippi to a more
modern, urban blues played on the electric guitar in cities
like Chicago and Kansas City.
In turn, the electric bottleneck sounds of Waters and
James fired the imaginations of another generation of
young enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic such as
Duane Allman, Mike Bloomfield and Eric Clapton, who
fused the gritty emotion of the blues with the raw energy
of rock guitar in the late 1960s and the 1970s The New
York folk music revival of the late 1950s brought to light
several great acoustic bottleneck slide guitarists, such
as Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi Fred McDowell, who
had languished in relative obscurity for many decades,
but whose authentic playing was intact and razor sharp.
Their rediscovery influenced creative guitarists like Ry
Cooder, who mastered the older styles and blended
bottleneck blues with folk, rock and rhythm and blues to
make his own brand of music. Another artist who helped
re-popularize acoustic bottleneck slide in a new context
is Leo Kottke, whose nimble fingerpicking on the 6- and
12-string recharged the power of solo guitar as a
contemporary art form.
GUITAR VOLUME TWO brings us up to date with the
music of five modern slide guitar masters whose playing
perpetuates and transcends the traditions of their
respective styles. The artistry of Mike Auldridge further
refines the Dobro’s musical savvy; Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
exemplifies the beauty and virtuosity of slide guitar in
Indian classical music; Bob Brozman reincarnates the
early echoes of Hawaiian music and Delta blues; Freddie
Roulette puts a bluesman’s spin on the electric steel
guitar; and Martin Simpson revives acoustic bottleneck
blues with a respectful nod to the past. The set of
performances in this video enriches the vast genre of
modern slide guitar and drives it on toward new musical
expressions. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
The trip begins
with Bob Brozman,
who whisks us from
his cozy living room
to a shadowland of
arcane slide guitar
esoteria with two
original compositions. As the title
suggests, “Hawaiian
African Slack Delta
Dream” is a heady
gumbo of Hawaiian
slack key and Delta
blues ideas freely
i n t e r p r e t e d
bottleneck style on
his sonor ous 12string guitar. Surrounded by a bevy of
magnificent metal
National Resophonic guitars – the
instrument that ignited his musical
fascination at age 13
– Brozman skillfully uses techniques and devices that
make the instrument “talk”, such as sliding artificial
harmonics to create those quivering, ghostly high pitches.
“Mournful Moan” paints an eerie musical landscape as
Brozman’s bottleneck slithers over the stark, plaintive
melody on a rare 8-string National Tricone.
Brozman is an authority on early Hawaiian music,
and he literally wrote the book on National guitars. Born
in 1954, Brozman grew up in New York and studied ethnomusicology at Washington University, where he delved
deeply into the earliest roots of Mississippi Delta blues.
Several Hawaiian slide guitar selections on an old
compilation album he’d come across called “Steel Guitar
Classics” piqued Brozman’s interest, and sent him on a
quest to collect all the old 78 rpm Hawaiian records he
could find. He found many, and from his collection he
compiled a set of five reissue albums of vintage Hawaiian
music from 1915 to 1935 for the Rounder and Folklyric
In the 1970s, Brozman started making his own
records for labels such as Yazoo, Kicking Mule, and
Rounder. Serendipity struck in 1988 when a quer y
regarding his recordings put him in contact with the Tau
Moe Family, a legendary Hawaiian recording group from
the 1920s. Brozman seized the opportunity to collaborate
with the Moe family in recreating their authentic music
on an album that received a Library of Congress Select
List Award. He later produced a documentary film about
the Moes and their remarkable career.
Another impor tant connection was made as
Brozman’s unflagging interest in National resonator
guitars netted him a letter from the instruments inventor,
John Dopyera. A friendship developed, giving him access
to extensive information about the original National
company, which went out of business during World War
II. Brozman told the company’s story in detail in his book,
“The Histor y and Ar tistr y of National Resonator
Instruments,” published in 1993. Since then National
Resophonic Guitars, Inc. has been revived and, with
Brozman’s input, is again manufacturing the distinctive
metal bodied guitars it pioneered in the 1930s.
Near the end of the video, Brozman’s fingers fly on
“Chopping Wood Blues,” an up-tempo bottleneck blues
novelty where he slaps the guitar’s metal body like a snare
drum. By contrast, he ends his set with a traditional
Hawaiian “E Mama Ea Medley” on a Weissenborn-style
lap guitar with a hollow neck. The simple chords and
sweet melody resonate with the gentle spirit of an earlier
island paradise.
The music veers off toward quite a different version
of the blues as Freddie Roulette takes the stage. Playing
an art deco-styled National electric 8-string lap steel
guitar, Roulette’s unusual sound and unorthodox style is
in a category all its own. Playing without a thumbpick or
fingerpicks, he digs into the standard changes of “End
Of The Blues” with a flurry of sliding licks, tricky “slants”
(chords formed by slanting the bar across the strings)
and glissandos that wobble and lurch from one end of
the fretboard to the other. Roulette’s heavy use of reverb
and digital delay gives his playing a far-out, spacey
quality that seems perfect for Santo and Johnny’s dreamy
pop classic, “Sleepwalk.”
Roulette began playing the lap steel while he was a
youngster in Evanston, Illinois. After a year of lessons,
he began making trips to Chicago’s Old Town area to
learn the blues first hand. Soon he was good enough to
perform and record with Earl Hooker, Big Moose Walker
and other windy city bluesmen of the 1960s. Eventually
blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite took notice
of Roulette, and invited him to play in his band at a
concert in Hartford, Connecticut on a double bill with B.
B. King. Roulette went on to tour the countr y with
Musselwhite, whose band included players such as
Freddy Below, Louis Meyers and Tim Kaihatsu.
Later Roulette settled in the San Francisco Bay area.
In the 1970s he released a solo album called “Sweet and
Funky Steel” on the Janus label. Numerous record dates
followed, including recent sessions for two Rykodisc
compilations; “Slide Crazy” and “The Psychedelic Guitar
Circus” with Henry Kaiser, Steve Kimock and Harvey
Mandel. Roulette’s newest compact disc, “Back In
Chicago” is due out soon.
Roulette’s solo version of the Beatle’s “Norwegian
Wood” is perhaps the most unusual rendering of the tune
you’re likely to ever hear, followed by “Blueberry Hill,”
where Kimock on electric bottleneck guitar joins Roulette
for some smoking, minor key solos as they turn up the
heat with the rhythm section rocking behind them.
Whatever style
of music he chooses to
interpret, the silkysmooth Dobro work of
Mike Auldridge is pure
ear candy. Here, accompanied by his topnotch acoustic ensemble Chesapeake, he
deftly rolls out the
Benny Goodman swing
classic “Stomping At
The Savoy” with a
mellow, bluegrass
flavor. Writers are often
tempted to name this
kind of fusion with
unwieldy monikers like
“jazz-grass.” The best
term for what Auldridge does here is simply “good music.”
Coaxing a warm, fat sound from his 8-string Dobro
as he tastefully glides through the chorus and bridge,
Auldridge takes off on a meaty, flawless solo before
turning it over to the band, which includes former Seldom
Scene guitarist Moondi Klein, Doc Watson’s longtime
electric bassist T. Michael Coleman, and mandolinist
Jimmy Gaudreau. He further demonstrates how just about
any good melody can work on the dobro with “Killing Me
Softly,” a huge hit for Roberta Flack in the early 1970s.
The notes and trills lay out perfectly on the standard, 6string Dobro, and Auldridge’s soulful slides on the high
notes evoke Flack’s heartfelt vocal on the original
Superb musicianship seems to come naturally to
Auldridge, who listened intently to the traditional country
and bluegrass music he heard in the 1950s while growing
up in the Washington D.C. area Like most contemporary
players, he took an interest in the instrument and initially
modeled his playing after Buck “Josh” Graves, the father
of bluegrass Dobro, who sold Auldridge his first good
instrument in 1961.
A decade later Auldridge emerged as one of the best
Dobro players in bluegrass with the legendary Seldom
Scene band. He also established himself as an important
solo artist in the early 1970s with two excellent records
on John Fahey’s Takoma label. Just as Graves’ work with
Flatt & Scruggs in the 1950s created a new style and
standard of playing the Dobro, Auldridge took the
instrument beyond bluegrass to a modern, eclectic
musical context and established a higher level of technical
expertise. In 1982 Auldridge recorded, “Eight-String
Swing,” a great collection of jazz and Western Swing
standards such as “Caravan” and “Red Top” (a la the
Texas Troubadours) played on an 8-string Dobro in a
C6th lap steel tuning.
Not one to complete ignore the Dobro’s more
traditional side, Auldridge abruptly shifts gears at the end
of “Killing Me Softly” and digs into several brisk choruses
of Tut Taylor’s “This Ain’t Grass.” Purists would agree
that it certainly ain’t bluegrass, but everyone who listens
with an open mind to Mike Auldridge and Chesapeake
will find much to enjoy.
One of the most extraordinary developments in the
history of slide guitar is it’s adaptation to Indian classical
music. A popular legend has it that in the 1800s an
Indian-born sailor named Gabriel Davion was kidnapped
from India by a sea captain who sailed to Honolulu, where
Davion jumped ship and subsequently learned to play
the guitar by fretting the strings with a pocketknife.
Another theory asserts that four thousand years ago there
existed in India an instrument called the swarabat sitar,
meaning “plectrum guitar,” that was plucked with a quill
and fretted with a carved hardwood cylinder.
What is known for certain is that musicians such as
Sunil Gangulyin originally popularized slide guitar music
as a motif in Indian movie soundtracks in the 1940s and
1950s, and that Brij Bhushan Kabra was the first Indian
musician to play an archtop guitar modified with
additional sympathetic strings in the context of Hindustani
classical music beginning in 1958. Kabra’s innovation
and virtuosity inspired a younger generation of Indian
musicians to further explore and develop slide guitar as
an eloquent instr umental voice. Among the most
accomplished of today’s Hindustani slide guitarists is
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, who performs two stunning ragas
accompanied by the young tabla master, Sukhvindar
Born in 1952, Bhatt originally learned Indian classical
music from his brother, Shashi Mohan, a disciple of the
great sitarist Ravi Shankar. Bhatt’s instrument is actually
a hybrid of guitar and sitar. Dubbed the “Mohan Veena,”
it features eight strings tuned at the peghead and another
12 drone strings alongside the neck. Bhatt’s flawless
intonation and expressive, flowing technique have
naturally made a great impression on American slide
guitarists. To date, Bhatt has collaborated with Ry Cooder
on a Grammy-winning album (“A Meeting By The River”),
and also with bluesman Taj Mahal (“Mumtaz Mahal”) and
dobro wizard Jerry Douglas (“Bourbon and Rosewater”).
The Indian raga is not a scale or a mode but a precise
melody that is stated and then improvised on in two or
three sections at different tempos. The melodic beauty
of the piece relies on the player’s ability to spin off
innumerable, subtle variations while vividly conjuring the
mood and time of day the music is intended to portray.
Bhatt shows his mastery of the form on “Raag Misra
Piloo,” where his exploration of the upbeat melody weaves
together numerous tasteful microtonal subtleties. He
beautifully evokes the dusky, evening mood of “Raag
Chandrakauns,” which begins with a haunting alap, or
first movement, and builds to a feverish crescendo in the
jhala where Bhatt and Singh engage in a fluent and
energetic dialog of melody and rhythm so rich and
complex it seems telepathic. Impressions of their exotic
music and this dynamic performance linger long after
the tape has ended.
It could be argued that the current interest in slide
guitar might not exist if it weren’t for it’s deep and ongoing
relationship with the blues. Blues is often called a “living
art” because there’s always new lifeblood flowing in to
reinterpret and renew the music. Martin Simpson brings
new life to the acoustic slide guitar tradition of Fred
McDowell, Blind Willie Johnson and other great country
bluesmen from the original era of rural Southern blues.
Playing with a metal slide, Simpson uses a technique
where the portion of the string between the slide and the
nut is allowed to resonate to create a ghostly, secondary
pitch to the fretted note. It’s particularly effective on
Simpson’s opening to Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful” where,
like a raga, he sets up the plaintive melody in a D tuning
before digging into the song’s repetitive, hypnotic groove.
Simpson’s slide hits the high wail and low moan of this
dark blues with an obvious reverence for the deepest roots
of the style.
Simpson’s musical experience began in his early
teens, when he began performing on the English folk pub
circuit around Lincolnshire. By the 1970s Simpson had
sufficiently honed his guitar chops to be an in-demand
accompanist for well-known singers such as June Tabor.
Simpson later married singer Jessica Ruby Simpson and
the couple left the British Isles for America in the late
1980s. Together they formed a group called Band of
Angels, while Martin also began performing as a solo
artist and making guitar records for the Shanachie and
Thunderbird labels.
Simpson closes his set with a mournful medley of
“Stole and Sold From Africa” and the traditional folk song
“Wayfaring Stranger.” His expressive slide melds both
melodies into a stark image of the cruel chapter of
American history that made the blues possible in the first
place. As the blues lexicon passes into the next century,
slide guitarists like Simpson will be there to give it an
evocative and powerful instrumental voice.
– Jim Ohlschmidt
The world of slide guitar offers a vast myriad of styles, techniques and music. The music presented in this video ranges
from jazz standards to Indian raags; from mournful blues to
rock standards; from bluegrass to Hawaiian slack key. Five
master slide guitarists are presented in this second collection:
Bob Brozman, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Martin Simpson, Mike
Auldridge and Martin Simpson. All use the slide to explore new
areas, textures and musical ideas.
MARTIN SIMPSON Spoonful, Medley: Stole And Sold
From Africa & Wayfaring Stranger
Raag Chandrakauns
FREDDIE ROULETTE End Of The Blues, Sweet Walk,
Norwegian Wood, Blueberry Hill
MIKE AULDRIDGE Stompin' At The Savoy,
Medley: Killing Me Softly & This Ain't Grass
BOB BROZMAN Hawaiian African Slack Delta Dream,
Mournful Moan, Chopping Wood Blues, E Mama Ea Medley
Vestapol 13069
Running time: 80 minutes
Cover photos by Anna Grossman
Nationally distributed by Rounder Records,
One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140
Representation to Music Stores by
Mel Bay Publications
© ® 2004 Vestapol Productions
A division of
Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop, Inc.
ISBN: 1-57940-997-0
1 1 6 7 1 30699