Steel Guitar Hall of Fame Induction
Following is the summary of Tom's activities that his daughter, Kelley, prepared for the presentation speech she delivered at the International Steel Guitar Convention, in September 2006, when Tom was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
It began in Bakersfield, California in 1945 when my Dad was 10 years old. A fellow was looking for another neighborhood boy who had called the Oahu Music Company wanting to take lessons on the Hawaiian steel guitar. My Dad showed the man where the boy lived, but also asked if he could take lessons too. So began a journey that has led to this ceremony here today.
My father studied hard on the old wooden Oahu training guitar, but soon switched to a Rickenbacker electric. When the family moved from Bakersfield to Monterey in 1948, Dad sought out other kids who played instruments. His love for the steel then blossomed. Playing throughout high school, he would become the steel player at a Barn Dance in Salinas with the area's noted bandleader, Big Jim DeNoon. By then he had a triple-neck Fender. Completing high school, he put the instrument aside while in collage.
After graduation, my mother encouraged him to take that Fender out of the closet and practice. Soon the bug bit him and he began club work that lasted for the next 15 years (but as most of you have learned too, he kept his day job!).
Tom Bradshaw with his daughter, Kelly, following Tom's induction into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
In 1964 he wrote his first instructional dissertation, "Chord Construction for the Pedal Steel Guitarist". He would also write "Anatomy of the Pedal Steel Guitar." Not satisfied with just writing, he began putting on steel guitar shows. Pairing with Maurice Anderson, he had his first show in 1967 in Dallas, Texas. That was followed with his first of many West Coast Steel Guitar Shows, the first being near Napa, California in 1968. Noel Boggs and Vance Terry attended and played, as well as Maurice. The next year, he and Reece hosted a 2-day marathon of players at their "Steel Guitar Show & Exhibit" in Dallas, Texas. Both ended up with a profit of exactly $15.00 each. They knew that keeping their day jobs was a must and decided to let others put on shows. Scotty took over and has made a success of it, but he may still be realizing only $15.00 from all his work. While in Dallas in '69 Dad recorded a 4-tune instructional course some here today will recall. Dad always said that if it hadn't been for Maurice's encouragement during the recording session, it would have never been completed. Dad titled it "Hey Reece, I Did It".
All of his life (and the lives of many of you here today) Dad found steel-related products hard to find. So, in the '70s he produced a catalog that included all the steel products that he believed were fit to be owned. Thus began the emergence of the world's largest mail order business in steel guitar products. From that point on, it was one project after another. Those projects included the Steel Guitar Record Club. In that Club he resurrected long-discontinued steel albums, and provided the musical biographies of such greats as Jerry Byrd, Tom Brumley, Herb Remington, Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons Buddy Charleton, Sonny Garrish, Hal Rugg, Red Rhodes, Speedy West, Curly Chalker, Alvino Rey, and Bobby Black.
Dad published three catalogs, one in each decade: '70s, '80s and '90s. He always tried to make them a reading experience, particularly his 1996 edition. It has been called a "book-a-log" because of all the biographical and historical information in it.
It was in the '70s that Dad began producing original albums. Some have become classics: Counterpoint and Nevada Breaks by Curly Chalker; California Freedom and Honky Cat by Bobby Black; and Bobby Garrett's "Thumbs Up" album that he produced with Texas entrepreneur Charlie Norris. He would follow those with perhaps the greatest array of classic albums ever resurrected from oblivion. It was a 20-volume set. Those great out-of-print albums were by Jerry Byrd, Herb Remington, Speedy West, Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons, Jay Dee Maness, Red Rhodes, Jimmy Day and Noel Boggs. Bringing those back to life, he called them the "Vintage Classics".
After Dad completed his first steel show in Napa, California in 1968, he wrote an article about it. Guitar Player magazine published it. Additional articles followed, leading to his becoming a feature writer for that magazine. Musical biographies were published on Maurice Anderson, Speedy West, Ralph Mooney, Sunny Curtis, Jerry Byrd, Curly Chalker, Tom Brumley and Buddy Emmons. Other articles featured guitar greats including Jimmy Bryant, Leon Rhodes, and Ronnie Prophet. The GP staff also asked my Dad to take over as a columnist when Buddy Emmons decided to end his own column in the magazine. Thus began the 3-year run of Pedal Steel Workshop. It was in one of his Workshop articles that he recommended that a Pedal Steel Guitar Association be formed. Thanks to Bob Maickel, it was formed 33 years ago and is still going strong.
Never satisfied, in 1979 Dad decided to publish a magazine for the players of the instrument. Thus was born Steel Guitarist magazine. Dad said he never wanted to do anything second class. His desire to always out-do his previous efforts too often led to quality products that exceeded his ability to keep afloat for the limited steel-playing demographic. After 6 issues, it ended, but no subscribers lost their money. Those issues remain as relevant today as when they were published over 20 years ago. And, he printed enough copies to make them available to this day! Ask Bob Lee of the Steel Guitar Forum!
Dad always remarked that everything he did failed. That was the case with his Cassette Club of the early '80s. It should be remembered that my Dad always had a Newsletter with his Clubs. They were devoted to passing on valuable information about playing the steel. Even though the Cassette Club ended about 15 years ago, one of his articles, "Triple Raises on a Double-Changer MSA", was recently re-printed on the Steel Guitar Forum. People are still benefiting from his efforts in sharing his knowledge (and the knowledge of others).
During the '90s, Dad got interested in doing more shows. He said he hadn't learned his lesson back in the '60s. Thus began a series of West Coast Steel Guitar Shows and seminars with Jeff Newman. Besides Jeff, Dad brought Buddy Emmons, Doug Jernigan, Bobby Black, Jimmy Day, Herb Remington, Bud Carter, Gene Fields, Scotty and Ralph Mooney (among others) to the S.F. Bay Area. As usual, he never made any money, but he said he brought a good time to all those who attended.
For all the years of the Hall of Fame's existence, my Dad has been responsible for the making of the plaques that all of you have viewed and read on the walls just outside this room. He also nominated a lot of those inductees, and did the required work to validate their accomplishments. For the first 7 years of the Hall's existence, he and Scotty funded the awards.
Dad has had a mail order business since the "Chord Construction..." publication he wrote in 1964. He finally grew tired of packaging and shipping all those magazines, records, tapes and instructional materials. So, in 2003 he donated all the inventory of those items to the Steel Guitar Forum. He also donated a large quantity of the magazines to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. All those donations had a value in excess of $100,000. Dad had been developing another hobby, restoring pedal steels. He had begun that in the early '90s. I know, because I worked along side of him for 2 years during that time. It is a period in my life that I will treasure.
But with each "failure," says Dad; he came up with a new idea to pursue his involvement with the steel guitar. Just this year he acquired the Webb Amplifier Company. Dad said he just couldn't let that amplifier fade from existence when it was the best one every made for the steel. So, don't think you've heard the last of him even if he "fails" with that venture. There will always be another project, another challenge, and another way to express his love for the steel guitar.
The Steel Guitar
Hall Of Fame, Inc.
9535 Midland Blvd. * St. Louis, MO. 63114-3314
314-427-7794 Phone * 314-427-0516 Fax