|Birth name||Forrest Isaacs|
|Also known as||Bud Isaacs|
|Born||March 26, 1928|
Bedford, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||September 4, 2016 (aged 88)|
|Instrument(s)||Pedal Steel Guitar|
|Labels||RCA and others|
Forrest "Bud" Isaacs (1928–2016) was an American steel guitarist who made country music history in 1954 as the first person to play pedal steel guitar on a hit record. He is known for his playing his innovative technique on Webb Pierce's 1954 recording of a song called "Slowly" which became a major hit for Pierce and was one of the most-played country songs of 1954. Isaacs was the first to push a pedal while the strings were still sounding to create a unique bending of notes from below up to join an existing note; this was not possible on older lap steel guitars.[a] The stunning effect he created was embraced by country music fans and many lap steel artists rushed to get pedals to imitate the unique bending chords that he played. Music historians pinpoint the actual dawning of country music's modern era to Isaac's performance on this song. He became a much-favored session player and performed on 11 top country records the year following the release of "Slowly". Even though pedal steel guitars had been available for over a decade before this recording, the instrument emerged as a crucial element in country music after the success of this song.
Indiana-born Isaacs was trained on Hawaiian guitar as a youth and quit school early to perform professionally with numerous country artists including Red Foley, Little Jimmy Dickens and Chet Atkins on the road and in recording sessions. He became a member of the house bands at the Grand Ole Opry and the Ozark Jubilee. As a solo performer, he recorded a number of seminal instrumentals for RCA records, including "Bud's Bounce" and "The Waltz You Saved for Me". He was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1984.
Isaacs was born March 26, 1928, in Bedford, Indiana. His father was a millworker at Bedford Cut Stone Company. His mother enrolled Isaacs in lessons provided by the Oahu Music Company located above Hoover's Confectionary in Bedford. Initially he played a conventional acoustic guitar Hawaiian style (horizontally across the knees) with raised strings. He persisted at the Hawaiian academy but preferred the lap steel style and tunings of Noel Boggs. With his acoustic guitar at age fourteen he performed with Pee Wee King's band on the Grand Ole Opry and was offered a job,[b]but the offer was withdrawn when his true age was revealed. He soon moved up to a Rickenbacker electric lap steel.
At age sixteen he acquired a Gibson "Electraharp", one of the earliest commercially available designs of a steel guitar with pedals. He quit high school that year to become a professional musician. He made his radio debut on WIBC-AM in Indianapolis and in 1944 began traveling throughout the Midwest to perform on various barn dance shows. He worked in Texas, Arizona, Michigan and elsewhere during the following decade. With the Electraharp, he recorded the song "Big Blue Diamonds" for King Records. He worked for numerous artists in recording sessions and on the road and was a member of the house band of the Grand Ole Opry for many years. He recorded as a solo performer for RCA from 1954 to 1960. and created his much-copied "Bud's Bounce" and "The Waltz You Saved for Me".
After receiving a new custom pedal steel, a double neck eight-string,: 32 made by west coast guitar maker Paul Bigsby in 1952, Isaacs experimented with it, trying to imitate the sound of two fiddles playing in harmony. Bigsby's new steel guitar design featured a pedal mechanism which changed the pitch of two strings simultaneously. Isaacs was not the first to use pedals. Speedy West had been using a pedal steel since 1948; however, Isaacs was the first on a recording to push the pedal while notes were still sounding. Other steel players strictly avoided doing this, because it was considered "un-Hawaiian". On a Webb Pierce recording session in Nashville in November, 1953, producer Owen Bradley asked Isaacs to try his technique on a solo for the song "Slowly".The song became one of the most-played country songs of 1954 and was No. 1 on the Billboard's country charts for seventeen weeks. It was the first recording of a pedal steel guitar on a hit record. This single performance by a session musician produced a rare and unlikely stylistic overhaul of the steel guitar sound in Nashville-produced country music. Steel guitar virtuoso Lloyd Green said, "This fellow, Bud Isaacs, had thrown a new tool into musical thinking about the steel with the advent of this record that still reverberates to this day". Attempting to put Issacs' innovation into words, music historian Tim Sterner Miller described it:, "... two pitches changing in contrapuntal motion against a sustained common tone..." Not only was the song embraced by the public, it was immediately recognized by lap steel (non-pedal) guitarists as something unique that was not possible to achieve on their instruments. Now a favored session player, Isaacs performed on 11 top country records in 1955. In an interview in 2012 by Jon Rauhouse, Isaacs said, "I had the only pedaled steel in town at the time. I got sessions with everybody!" Dozens of instrumentalists rushed to get pedals on their steel guitars to imitate the unique bending notes that he played. In the months and years after this recording, instrument makers and musicians worked to recreate Bigsby's mechanical innovation and Isaacs' musical innovation. Even though pedal steel guitars had been available for over a decade before this recording, the instrument emerged as a crucial element in country music after the success of this song.
In 1956, the Gibson company hired Isaacs to consult on their pedal steel instrument, later introduced as the "Multiharp". Isaacs married Geri Mapes, also a musician, and they worked together with an act they called the "Golden West Singers". The couple eventually retired to Yuma, Arizona, where Isaacs died September 4, 2016 at the age of 88. He was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1984. Record companies issued three compilations of his recordings, Master of the Steel Guitar (2005), Swingin’ Steel Guitar of Bud Isaacs (2005) and Bud’s Bounce (2006).
- Theoretically, it was "possible" on a lap steel, but not possible to play it rapidly with perfect intonation; the pedal version was immediately recognizable.
- At that time, many of Pee Wee King's orchestra members had been taken by the WWII draft; King was actively seeking new musicians. Judge George D. Hay auditioned Issacs for King and made the job offer.
- "Bud Isaacs/Biography & interview". countrymusichalloffame.org. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. September 5, 1989. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Miller, Tim Sterner (2017). The Oxford Handbook of Country Music. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190248178. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Duchossior, A.R. (2009). Gibson Electric Steel Guitars: 1935-1967. New York: Hal Leonard Books. p. 116. ISBN 9781423457022. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
- Rauhouse, Jon (September 1, 2012). "Wire and Hinges: How Pedal Steel Guitar Legend Bud Isaacs Changed the Course of Country Music". fretboardjournal.com. The Fretboard Journal. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Carlin, Richard (2013). Country music : a biographical dictionary (ebook ed.). New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415938020. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
- "Bud Isaacs/Artist Biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
- "Bud Isaacs Just Wanted to Play Music". lawrencecountyhistory.org. Lawrence County Museum of History & Edward L. Hutton Research Library. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
- Cundell, R. Guy S. (July 1, 2019). "Across the South: The origins and development of the steel guitar in western swing (PhD Thesis)" (PDF). b0b.com. Adelaide, Australia: University of Adelaide. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
- Stubbs, Eddie (January 20, 2006). Bud's Bounce/Album Liner Notes. Hamburg, Germany: Bear Family Records. p. 6.
- Humphrey, Mark (2004). The Encyclopedia of Country Music : the ultimate guide to the music. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195176087. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
- Oermann, Robert K. (September 9, 2016). "LifeNotes: Pedal Steel Pioneer Bud Isaacs Passes". musicrow.com. Music Row Magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
- Babiuk, Andy (2008). The story of Paul Bigsby : father of the modern electric solidbody guitar (1st ed.). Savannah, Georgia: FG Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 9780615243047.
- Ross, Michael (February 17, 2015). "Pedal to the Metal: A Short History of the Pedal Steel Guitar". Premier Guitar Magazine. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Winston, Winnie; Keith, Bill (1975). Pedal steel guitar. New York: Oak Publications. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-8256-0169-9.
- Baldwin, Lonna (September 21, 1984). "Duo Brings Nashville to the Country". Weekend supplement. No. Vol.98, No. 314. Spokane Chronicle. p. 34. Retrieved December 4, 2020.