Howard White: Western Swing & Steel Instrumentals (CD)
1-CD with 28-page booklet, 14 tracks. Playing time approx. 35 mns.
Steel guitarist Howard White's 1990 book, 'Every Highway Out Of Nashville', was the logbook of a journeyman session musician. In 1976 he recorded a western swing album with a group of his favorite sessionmen. He drafted in Henry Strzelecki, Buddy Spicher, Pete Wade and Pete Drake, and they tackled songs like Jealous Heart, Roly Poly, Rose Of Old Pawnee, San Antonio Rose and Columbus Stockade Blues. This set is rounded out with Howard's ultra-rare 1953 recordings. A must-have set for steel guitar and slide guitar fans.
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Howard White "The Bible says it rains on the just and the unjust and I guess that's how I've come to accept my lot in life," is the opening line of Chapter Three of Howard and Ruth White's book, `Every Highway out of Nashville.' Howard then proceeds to tell his story: of growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina; of being used as a human guinea pig by the U.S. Navy in their re-search on chemical warfare during WWII; and of his life and adventures as a musical sideman. ('I've never been a star, I've always been a sideman, but there's satisfaction in a job well done.") As much of a humorist as a musician, Howard White is loved in the country music world for his steel guitar playing and his story-telling alike. ("... was an ac-complished musician - and, he was very short. I wanted to offer him a drink one dime, but I was scared it'd make him high.")
Howard's earliest musical influence did not come from his own family, but from his neighbors, the Jamisons, who would gather on their front porch in the evenings and play old songs on their stringed instruments. Howard taught himself how to play guitar from records and the radio; later, when he bought a Hawaiian steel guitar and amp from the Sears and Roebuck catalog, he wrote his idol Jerry Byrd in Cincinnati and who wrote back, offer-ing valuable advice on tuning and string arrangements. While in high school, Howard formed a band that played at square dances and other local social events. When Howard White joined the navy in 1944, he was assigned to special ser-vices at a naval air base in Washington, D.C. in the chemical warfare branch where, he wrote, "my job for my country was not to fight, but to test uniforms, with me in them, against gas... They put me, and others, in spe-cial gas chambers and turned on the gas to see if the suits leaked. Some of the guys were burned. I developed a nervous condition which grew worse and worse." He was to spend his life in and out of hospitals, improperly diag-nosed for nearly 40 years and, to this day, insufficiently acknowledged and/or compensated by the U.S government.
Howard played steel for Don Gibson on WNOX (Knoxville) Radio's Mid Day Merry-Go-Round for about a year in '51-'52, then moved to Nashville to work with 'Waltz King' Cowboy Copas on the Grand Ole Opry. He toured briefly with Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams Sr., then returned to work with Copas until Copas dis-banded his group in '53. A pattern was established of working a succession of jobs with different artists: Ferlin Husky, Audrey Williams, Jim Reeves, Judy Lynn, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, Red Sovine, Mel Tillis, Grandpa Jones, the Duke of Paducah and lastly, in his longest stretch with any single artist (`60-'64), Hank Snow. As Howard explained, "..An act would only add about two new songs a year to (his) program and it got boring to a hyper person like myself." He believes now that if he had understood more about his manic-depressive disorder, "maybe I could have stood songs like 'I' m Movin' On' one more time. But as it was, I just kept movin' on to greener pastures. I knew every highway out of Nashville by heart."
In the mid-'60s, having come to despise life on the road, Howard retired from playing and has spent much of his time since then going from pillar to post" in the various roles of songplugger, promoter, and music publisher. Like many of the musicians of his generation, he has come to know everyone in - and all aspects of - the music business. "Us old sidemen who used to work the Opry spots and the one-nighters," he writes, "are mostly not playing now. We're scattered to all walks of life... (But) I've met a lot of people I' m proud to know, too many to name. There are a few who love me."