Neil Flanz is a pedal steel guitar player living in Austin, TX. He has played and toured for over 30 years with artists including Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Charlie Louvin and Joe Sun. Neil was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame on June 12, 2016
Neil was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His musical influences as a child included Jimmie Rodgers, Wilf Carter, Hawaiian music and the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts. He began playing guitar at the age of 13 when his parents bought him a flat top guitar; by the time he was 17, he had moved on to the steel guitar (a double-neck Fender Stringmaster) in order to more closely replicate the sounds he had heard on country records growing up. It was the song “Slowly” by Webb Pierce (with Bud Issacs on an early pedal steel guitar called a "tone changer") that convinced him to begin playing with pedals, and he approached steel guitarist George Essery in Montreal to modify his guitar with a pedal.
Neil's first job as a musician was with Cowboy Jack, a Montreal artist with several country music hits in French. During the ensuing years, he worked with various musicians in Montreal and began making albums of his own, including 1962’s "Neil Flanz and his Nashville Steel", and 1964’s "Get On The Star Route" (recorded in Toronto using an Emmons Stereo pedal steel guitar). The success of the two albums gained Neil considerable recognition, both in Canada and the United States. He toured in the Toronto area with Dusty King, and in Ontario with Jack Kingston and Gary Buck.
At the age of 24, Neil began the process of moving to Nashville, TN. He worked in Montreal’s "Country Palace" backing up many Nashville artists including Charlie Louvin of the famed Louvin Brothers duet, and after obtaining his green card, Neil finally moved to Nashville, where he worked and toured with Charlie Louvin, Jean Shepard, Billy Walker, Ray Pillow and many other Grand Ole Opry artists. He eventually connected with Nashville’s "The Kelly Rogers Breed" with a regular engagement at the "Broadway Barn" around the corner from the Grand Ole Opry.
In 1973, Phil Kaufman contacted Neil to play a six-week tour with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The band was called "The Fallen Angels" and also featured Kyle Tullis on bass, N.D. Smart on drums and Jock Bartley on lead guitar. Neil cites the tour as one of the most exciting parts of his career, with “thousands of cheering young long haired fans being introduced to country for the first time … rushing up to the stage just to touch us. Gram’s Live: 1973 was recorded in Long Island, NY, and prominently features Neil's steel playing.
After the Parsons tour, Neil returned to Nashville to rejoin the "Kelly Rogers Breed," which later changed its name to "Peppertree." In the following months, he also toured with Roy Drusky, returning to play in Nashville whenever possible. This eventually led to a regular engagement at the Deeman's Den (named after owner and singer Nancy Dee). His shows there regularly featured sit-ins by Little Jimmy Dickens, Faron Young, Johnny Paycheck, Webb Pierce, Jimmy Day, Buddy Emmons and Jimmy Bryant.
Over the ensuing years, Neil spent time touring the country with various groups, including stops in Austin and Dallas, and a two-week stint introducing President Jimmy Carter on a primary tour in North Carolina. In 1980, Joe Sun called and offered Neil a job as his full-time pedal steel player. The band, called “Shotgun”, rehearsed in Key West, FL for a month before beginning touring and playing in Nashville, at which time Joe asked the band to record with him in the studio as well. Living On Honky Tonk Time was the first album featuring the band, and the song "Bombed Boozed and Busted" climbed the top twenty of the country charts, and remained a juke box favorite. The band played on the Austin City Limits television show and made three trips to Europe, including shows at London's famed Wembley Stadium. The band also toured Stockholm, Zurich, Amsterdam, Germany, and Scotland. Two albums featuring Neil were recorded in Nashville for release in Germany on the Intercord label (German Wikipedia page: de:Intercord) and a second album for Elektra Records was released called I Aint Honky Tonkin' No More.
Neil currently lives in Austin, TX, where he plays regular shows with FingerPistol. He teaches all levels of pedal steel guitar, and in 1969 recorded an instruction album for the E9 tuning now available on CD with tab as well as a book entitled “The C 6th Chord Dictionary”. Neil currently plays a double neck Emmons.