Pete Drake and His Talking Steel Guitar

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Introduction to Pete Drake

Pete Drake was a pedal steel guitar player who made a name for himself first and foremost, as a sought-after backup guitarist. He played guitars on songs by Lynn Anderson, Bob Dylan, Tammy Wynette, and Charlie Rich. Drake had also worked with Don Gibson, Marty Robbins, and others. Pete Drake and His Talking Steel Guitar released the album Forever in 1964. Its accompanying single was the title track, that broke into the Hot 100 chart also that same year; his use of the talk box (a contraption to give unique sound effects to musical instruments such as guitars) is also the track’s widely distinguished feature. He was also record producer, engineering albums for other artists. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.

Pete Drake as a premiere session musician

Pedal steel guitar player and record producer Pete Drake was born Roddis Franklin Drake in Augusta, Georgia on October 8, 1932. His main inspiration to become a steel guitar player was Jerry Byrd, whom Drake first saw perform on the Grand Ole Opry. Later in the 1950s Drake formed a band called Sons of South in nearby Atlanta. The band would include future country stars such as Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller, Jack Greene, and Joe South.

In 1959 Drake later joined a group of Nashville session musicians called the Nashville A-Team, which backed dozens of popular singers such as Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan etc. Although most of the Nashville A-Team musicians typically played country music, they could be very versatile and play in other genres, such as rock and jazz. Drake had also worked with Don Gibson, Marty Robbins, and others. For this he made a name for himself as one of the sought-after backup musicians during the 1960s.

 

Drake’s only hit with “Forever”

It was in 1964 where Pete Drake was signed to Smash Records as a solo artist, and was often referred to as Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar. He released an album calledForever, with its title track as the carrying single.

The single “Forever” was written by Buddy Killen. Drake’s innovative use of the talk box was later adopted by other artists such as Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh, Roger Troutman and Jeff Beck, among others.

“Forever” rose to #25 on the Billboard pop chart, and #5 on the Billboard adult contemporary singles chart. The album also did quite well, peaking at #85 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Later life and career

After his sole hit, Drake continued working as a session musician, later working Joan Baez’s (on her David’s Album), George Harrison (All Things Must Pass), and Ringo Starr (Beacoups of Blues), among many others.

Drake was also a record producer. He launched his own record label First Generation in the late 1970s. One of his artists there was Ernest Tubb. Drake would also occasionally release solo recordings most of pop-gospel standards and interpretations of hits of other artists such as those of Dylan and the Beatles.

A heavy smoker, Drake eventually developed emphysema and by the mid-1980 his health had declined. He died in Nashville, Tennessee in 1988, aged 55. For his outstanding achievements and contributions, Drake was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.

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