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Last of His Kind: Chris Scruggs on Rock Guitar and Pedal Steel

Paul Burch
|
07.03.2012
Chris Scruggs

Nashville native Chris Scruggs is the rare Music City artist who at a young age stood out among legends both young and old as the kind of talent fellow musicians--not just fans--hope for. It wasn't just his ability that got everyone's attention. It was the kind of music Scruggs championed: country. As a teenager, the son of songwriter and artist Gail Davies (the first female producer allowed on Music Row), immersed himself not on alternative rock but in the lost art of 'hillbilly' music, becoming a master lap steel player and learning everything he could about stylists like Johnny Sibert, Billy Robinson, Bashful Brother Oswald, and Kayton Roberts. At the same time, Chris went around Nashville and knocked on the doors of dozens of studio guitarists from the '40s, '50s, and '60s who had been left by the side of the road in the age of Garth and Shania, learning their secrets and stories. In a sense, 50 years worth of country music lives and breathes in Scruggs' style. His love of the hillbilly groove led to a short stint with BR549 before he set out on his own. Scruggs has also appeared on the GRAMMY winning collection Beautiful Dreamer - The Songs of Stephen Foster as well as recordings with Amy LeVere, George Jones and Neko Case. As if that wasn't enough, Chris recently took up the fiddle under the tutelage of legend Buddy Spicher and to no one's surprise, he's turned out to be a fair fiddler. (“Fair” by Nashville standards is usually great by any other city's standards).

Like any lad, Chris also fell hard for classic rock and roll. On stage, he tends to carry an archtop and is especially fond of the Casino not only for its Beatle lineage but because "it's pretty much all you need" when you're on stage. Chris has recently been on the road with M. Ward (on bass, guitar, and steel) when not supporting his latest album, Anthem, and working in the studio on a new album for later this year. Epiphone caught up with Chris after SXSW.

What attracted you to steel guitar?

I think it was the vocal quality of steel guitar that attracted me at first. Johnny Sibert, who played steel for Carl Smith, told me that Carl considered the steel a sort of duet partner to his singing. Johnny would usually play the same licks and fills religiously, but he would sometimes change just one because he knew it would throw Carl for a second and make him laugh a little. You can always tell if it's a Hank Williams record, an Eddy Arnold record or a Webb Pierce record by the steel intros, way before the star had even begun singing. There's something powerful to that.

To read the full interview with Chris Scruggs, click here to go to Epiphone.com.


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