I began taking lessons on a lap steel in 1956 at age 9 and continued taking lessons off and on for the next couple of years. At age 12, I got a Fender double neck 8 string steel guitar and started taking lessons from Tani Alien in Chattanooga. Tani was a pro and spent a lot of extra time working with me, which really inspired me to practice and stay with it. This would have been in 1959, and I've been playing steel guitar continually since then. In 1960 I met Speedy West, who was my first steel guitar hero. My parents bought me my first pedal steel in 1960, which was a Fender 1000, which came through Speedy, who was running a warehouse for Fender in Tulsa, OK at that time. I was able to go to Tulsa and visit with Speedy on several occasions. Speedy definitely had more influence on me at that time than any other steel guitarist, because he would always take time from whatever he might be doing to show me licks and answer questions. This had a tremendous impact on me learning to play. He also would talk with me on the phone and took time to answer my letters -Again, I was only about 13 and 14 years of age at the time. From then all through High School, I spent as much time behind that Fender 1000 as I could; there were many 8 to 10 hour days of practicing.
At age 12, I played with the first band doing private parties and so on for friends and relatives. At age 15, I started playing with a local singer name-Bob Brandy who had a TV show five days a week. I played the TV show many times plus we played spot jobs on the weekends, such as; shopping centers, schools within a 100 mile radius of Chattanooga. We would play as many as 3 different spot jobs in one day. At age 16, I joined the musician's union and continued working with Bob Brandy and also started playing a local club 3 nights a week while still in school. About this same time, I landed a job at the Yacht Club in Chattanooga, which was a very prestigious place to work. This was 6 nights a week and was a very interesting job, as it wasn't Country music, but rather playing standards and swing, which was then and still is some of my favorite music. I worked with a great piano player who was one of those guys who knew about every pop standard ever written. This was very good experience, as I would use fake books and have read many of the songs as I played them live. Also at age 17, I started playing at a local amusement park on Sundays that booked Country artists from Nashville, Tennessee. We were the backup band and I got to work with many of the top Country singers and got to know many of them
At age 18, after graduating from High School I landed a job in Milwaukee, WI. This was at a well known club that booked different big names in every week and we were the house band and had the chance to back many of them. The singer in the band was a guy named Duane Dee, who was also 18 years old at the time. We hit it off and became and still are good friends. A year later in 1966, Duane got a recording contract with Capitol Records and moved to Nashville I lived in Chattanooga, but I started working the road off and on with Duane which actually was my first road job. 1 worked the road for the next 12 years with various other artists on a regular basis, such as: Leroy Van Dyke, Nat Stuckey, David Rogers, Donna Fargo, Jody Miller and Billie Joe Spears. I quit working the road regularly in 1977.
Although I have never been a full time session player, I have done around 2,000 sessions or so over the years. Most of the sessions were custom projects with smaller artists; however, I recorded quite a bit with Nat St-uckey, as well as Alabama, Danny Shirley (lead singer for Confederate Railroad), Sammi Smith, David Keith and many more.
I have backed many artists over the years, some on tours where I was hired to' go out and others on one night stands. Some of these artists are: Loretta Lynn, Roy Clark. Tammy Wynette, The Willis Brothers, Kenny Price, Jerry Wallace, Roger Miller, Johnny Duncan, Ray Pillow, The Forester Sisters, Stan Hitchcock. Benny Martin, Lois Johnson, George Morgan, Justin Tubb, Johnny Carver, Johnny Russell, Mac Wiseman, Willie Nelson, Merle Travis, Tex Williams, Dave Dudley, Johnny Bush, Curtis Potter, Billy Grammer, Leon Rausch, Margie Bowes, Ernie Ashworth, Connie Smith, Barbara Fairchild, Jack Green, Jeannie Seely, Jeannie Pruitt, Charlie Rich, Ferlin Huskey, Tanya Tucker, Del Reeves, Billy Crash Craddock, Mel Street, Susan Raye, Cal Smith, Michael Landon, Pat Boone and many others.
I have played the Grand Ole Opry many times, worked staff one night filling in for Weldon Myrick. I worked on an NBC Special Kraft Music Hall with Donna Fargo and Perry Como. I got to play the Merv Griffin Show with Donna Fargo. I have played many of the top hotels in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.
In 1969 I did my first instruction course for the Emmons Guitar Co. I also did a second one for them shortly after that. As I was still on the road on a regular basis during that time I didn't pursue doing instruction courses for a while, as I didn't realize the potential that was there. In 1975 I did do one course for Scotty. In 1979 after quitting the road, I started HWP and began doing courses and teaching seminars on my own. I will also mention that I have had experience teaching pedal steel guitar as far back as 1963 when I started teaching locally in a music store.
In 1978, I started playing at Scotty's International Steel Guitar Convention and I have played it every year since then. I also do most of the other steel guitar shows around the country. I average around 15 shows a year.
I have recorded 12 instrumental albums from 1980 through 1999. I also did a couple of band albums when I was on the road, that were never released. Three of the 12 albums I have done were with Thumbs Carllile, who was another one of my heroes and one of the highlights of my career working with him. We worked together quite a bit for about 4 years until his death in 1987. He was a true. legend. I have had several dreams come true by getting to work with many of my musical heroes. Wade Ray was another one of these people who played on my second album and I also got to work several steel guitar shows with him. He was another legend and true gentleman.
I have gotten to work at three Legends Of Western Swing Festivals in the past few years and in 1998 Hal Rugg and I did a live video at the festival.
In 1989 I moved from Chattanooga to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area, which is a tourist area that has several music show as well as Hollywood. I played 7 seasons at Dollywood in various shows and the past 2 years I worked at a theatre in Pigeon Forge with Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius and Con Hunley. Con Hunley is another one of those heroes I keep talking about, and I have been admiring his talent for many years. He is without a doubt the most soulful singer I have ever worked with. It is a true pleasure getting to back him u\ I still work with Con on various spot jobs from time to time.
I have done several steel guitar shows and seminars in Canada over the years I have been to Europe twice over the past several years and done seminars and steel guitar shows in quite a few different countries there.
Recently Del Mullen of Mullen Steel Guitars has introduced a Mullen steel guitar, which is the new HWP model.
At present I am still operating HWP and doing steel guitar shows. I am also working on more new projects, such as; a new album and a new course.
Since the writing of this bio, I have done several more album projects for a total of 14 instrumental albums. Scotty's Music in St. Louis released a video from a concert in St. Louis featuring the legendary fiddle player Wade Ray and myself. I did a steel guitar show in England in 2001. Also, in 2001 the greatest thing to happen to me was being inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame. At that time, there were only 43 steel guitar players in the Hall Of Fame. Again, I still continue doing steel guitar show all over the country, usually doing about 20 to 25 per year.
Also, in 2004 I was inducted into the NACMAI Hall Of Fame. This is a Country Music Association.
Scotty's ISGC Award
Oklahoma Steel Guitar Association, Award