Not many guitarists can say they’ve developed and built their own unique version of the instrument, but that’s exactly how country music singer and guitarist Junior Brown got his “guit-steel.”
Brown grew up in southern Indiana and learned the piano at a young age from his father. He played in a number of bands throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, including The Last Mile Ramblers and Asleep at the Wheel.
In 1985, Brown conceived the guitar design that would provide his signature sound and look, combining a standard six-string guitar with a steel guitar, dubbing it the “guit-steel.”
“I was playing both the steel and guitar, switching back and forth a lot while I sang, and it was kind of awkward,” Brown wrote on his website. “But then I had this dream where they just kind of melted together. When I woke up, I thought ‘You know, that thing would work!’ They made double-neck guitars and double-neck steels, so why not one of each?”
With the assistance of luthier Michael Stevens, Brown made the dream a reality, crafting a futuristic-looking, double-necked device that Brown named “Old Yeller.” Onstage, Brown rests the instrument on a small stand, switching between traditional guitar riffs on the upper neck and blazing slide guitar runs on the lower. “Guit-steel” models are available for purchase on Brown’s website.
Brown’s commercial success truly took off in the ‘90s, with his debut record “12 Shades of Brown” hitting stores in 1990 and re-released in 1993. The singer-guitarist followed up with “Guit with It,” “Semi Crazy,” and “Long Walk Back.” Film and television appearances followed, with Brown’s music appearing in “Me Myself and Irene,” “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the 2005 remake of “Dukes of Hazzard.” Brown also played the narrator in the latter film.
In 2012, Brown released “Volume Ten”, an EP containing five original tunes and the instrumental “Almost to Tulsa,” written by and dedicated to steel guitar player Buddy Charleton.
Josh Sweigert, Lake Tahoe Action