This interview by Gib Sun took place at the North Tennessee Steel Guitar SuperJam, July 1, 2003.
Gib: What a pleasure it is having you here for the Steel
Weldon: It’s my pleasure. Do you know that that particular song
is what I opened up my Jakejam with that I started in my home town of Jayton, Texas, on October 18th? Jake is in between Abilene
and Lubbock. Anybody in that area can come and join us and pick. There is lots of singing and picking. It last most of the
day on that Saturday.
Gib: Boy, you answered a big question in my mind. You
know; you look like a Texas boy.
Weldon: Well, I guess my statue fits the part. I was born and raised
there, and the town was great to me growing up. This jam is a free show for everybody. They appreciate it, and I appreciate
it. They even named a street after me showing their appreciation of what I did and the business.
Gib: Weldon Myrick, the humble man he is, is a hall of
fame member. I see your plaque on the wall every year, and you are a well appreciated man. What was it; forty-two years with
Weldon: Actually, I count when it was regular, and that’s thirty-two
years. I loved every minute of it. They had no idea I’d paid them. It was time to move on and let somebody else have
Gib: The thing that sticks in my mind is the great work
you did with Connie Smith.
Weldon: I tell you, that was a God-send for me. It opened all the doors.
Bill Anderson, of course, who I was working for at that time, he made all that happen. I’ve always appreciated him and
her. I appreciate Mr. Bill Ferguson, Connie’s producer. He was an old steel man himself. He and I got along really well.
We did some things together, like the Choctaw Indian reservation in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was a great rapport. I did
lots of things for RCA in those days, and Bob said being an old steel player himself was one of the reasons he liked to turn
the steel up real hot on those recordings.
Gib: You’ve sure given a lot to this industry.
How did you get started growing up in Jayton, Texas?
Weldon: My brother was twelve years older than I am. He was living
in Lubbock, Texas. Back in those days, the Hawaiian sound on a steel was real popular. They had the Awaho instruction schools,
and you could get instructional material from Jerry Byrd, Leon McCulliffe and a few others. He was taking lessons and learning
to play. He came to Jayton to visit the folks and left it at our house. I heard him play that thing. I’d heard it on
the radio. I was eight or nine years old, and I didn’t know what I was listening to until I heard that. That was the
sound. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about that sound. He saw how crazy I was about it, and he left it with me
and said, "I hope you can do good with it." Of course, we couldn’t tune it, but he would come back occasionally and
tune it up. He had lost the bar, so I used my dad’s pocket knife and slid around on the strings just learning how. It
wasn’t a very expensive guitar, but my dad took me to Lubbock to a music store where he bought me another guitar. They
let me pick one out, and I picked a little Rickenbacker Bakelite model that had the little medal plates on the front of it.
Jerry Byrd played one like that, and at the time I didn’t know he did, but I just loved the sound of it. The man at
the music store said, "This boy has made an excellent choice. This is a real good guitar." I kept learning, and I had some
buddies that would pick, and they would get me to come over with them. There were two guys that were older than I was. One
of them had a machine that cut those little plastic disc called a rec-a-cut. We’d just sit in there and record those
plastic disc. We’d play Back up and Push, Rubber Dolly and those things. I was trying to learn to play Steel Guitar
Rag, and we’ve got copies now where he had saved those things. I had a buddy of mine here in Nashville take some of
those and make cassettes out of them and preserve them a little longer. That’s how I got started listening to the radio
and record player and stuff. I met a fellow named Ben Hall. He has a recording studio here in Nashville now. At the time,
he lived in Breckenridge, Texas, and he had a jamboree every Saturday night. He heard me play. I was fourteen at the time,
and he said, "I’d like for you to play for me on this jamboree." So I would go down there and pick with him. He had
one of those machines himself. He had everything set up in his dirt floor garage, and we’d cut those disc. He’d
say, "You’ve got to keep a steady volume. You can’t be picking light here and hard there. I can’t pick it
up right." So he was really teaching me what became my forte; that’s recording. I didn’t realize it at the time,
but that was a heck of a background to get me going.
I see Ben quite often. In fact, I was over at his studio here in town yesterday doing
a session with a young man from Texas who was doing demos of songs he had written. Jesse McReynolds was playing mandolin,
and I played Dobro on the session.Gib: Who did you have your first really big job with?Weldon: That would be after I came
to Nashville. Prior to that it was locals. I did get to backup an Opry show in Lubbock one time. I played behind Minnie Pearl.
She actually sang two or three songs. Jim Reeves and Ferlin Husky. Ferlin gave me nice long break on one of his songs, and
I really appreciated that. I was thrilled to death to be on that show. That was the big time when I was growing up. I picked
with some guys who later became really big artist. One was Buddy Holly.
Gib: Was that in the Waylon era?
Weldon: Yes! Waylon and I picked together on a television show each
Saturday with a girl named Hope Griffith. She was twelve or thirteen years but sang wonderfully. After I graduated from high
school, we did some things together at Ben Hall’s studio in Big Spring.
Gib: Those have to be huge memories for you.
Weldon: They really are. I got to meet Billy Walker, who was performing
on the Louisiana Hayride, and Hank Lockland on a radio station in Lubbock. The station was located in a cotton field. They
were purely country and had a great listener base. Every Sunday, they would have what they called a Sunday Party. Anybody
that wanted to could come out and pick and be on the show. It was good to get to know them because after I got to Nashville
and our paths met, we had that little bit of background. Even today, I pick with Billy Walker. We go out and play some shows.
In fact, Saturday night we did the reunion at the Louisiana Hayride, and that was one wonderful thing for me. I used to listen
to that show in the 50’s, and I thought the sound was so wonderful. It had that natural big room sound, and it still
has that sound.
Gib: You are one of Russ Hick’s big idols. He made
me promise to ask you about the fuzzy steel guitar story.
Weldon: After I came to Nashville, I bought a Fender 1000, and I decided
I needed to put a new finish on it. So I sanded off the finish that was on it and put another finish on it. Before it had
time to set and dry good, I had run into Bill Anderson at the Grand Ole Opry, and we set up a date for me to audition for
a job. He invited Walter Haynes and Little David Wilkerson, a piano player, as judges on whether I could do it or not. Bill
was coming off his big hit Still, so I was real excited about the tryout. We went to his office in the Hubert Long building.
When I started to take my guitar out of the case, I pulled it up all the fuzz in the case stuck to it, and it just looked
hairy. Bill said, "What in the world is that?" I said, "I don’t really know. I think the thing wasn’t really dry
and everything stuck to it." It looked like it needed a shave or a haircut. I did audition and Walter said, "He’ll do
a fine job for you." So Bill booked me on a demo and said if I do okay on the demo, for sure you’ve got the job. One
of the songs he put on it was Peel Me a Nanner.
Gib: You played on a song with a major artist where you
didn’t use a bar. You used a tube of lipstick!
Weldon: That’s correct! Carol Lee Cooper, who is the girl with
the backup singers in the Grand Ole Opry, has a daughter named Vanessa. Vanessa at the time, was just a young little girl,
and she had an empty lipstick tube. It was metallic and sort of favored a bar. She gave it to me and said you might want to
try this. I did, and it had a particular sound to it. So I was carrying it around, and I was recording with Reba McIntyre,
and she did a song called Little Rock. I used it on that recording, and I guess that’s the only one I used it on, but
it had a particular little sound about it.
Gib: Would you call yourself primarily a studio musician?
Weldon: That’s always been my main bag, recording. I do like
playing out live. Of course, the Grand Ole Opry was live, and I enjoyed that all those years. Steel shows, I enjoy that. What
I don’t enjoy is not being able to do the things that I used to do, and I guess that is just a natural thing. I’ve
had a tough time dealing with that, but I’m doing better with it now.
Gib: Johnny Bush. Was that just studio work with Johnny
Bush? Some real innovative steel sounds.
Weldon: Several of the things I did with Johnny were produced by Ray
Pennington. In those days, we tried to be a little different. Somebody wanted to hear something that was a little bit different
or unusual. Unlike what you hear today, many artist sound so much alike. It’s hard to tell whose singing; sounds like
they could be using the same track.
Gib: The first true instrumental of yours that just blew
me away and does so everytime I hear it was Connie’s Song. I’m surprised you were able to get that recorded back
in the old days.
Weldon: I contrived that little medley after Mr. Bob Ferguson had called
me and said he’d like to do some instrumentals on me. The deal was that RCA would lease it from me, but I had to do
it. Hubert Long financed my session to do that, and then they leased it. Since it was Connie’s singing that actually
got me the deal, I combined three of her songs and called it Connie’s Song. The backside was called Charlotte. That’s
where Bill was doing a TV show that we did quite a few of, and that was the theme song we used. The way that came about is
he always loved Rose City Chimes. Ralph Emery was using that as a theme on his late night radio show. Bill said if he could
have something similar to that, but not that. So that’s what I came up with.
Gib: How did you get started at the Opry?
Weldon: Well, when I got into it, it was an open house. Anybody could
go down and work the Opry. If they walked in the door, and one of the artist said, "Hey! How about working my spot tonight?"
Then you got the job. I had been working with Bill Anderson and when I left his band, I was working an office for the Emmons
Guitar Company out on Dickerson Road in Nashville. I went down to the Opry and noticed that Hal Rugg was the only guy that
was still going down there. Pete had quit going down, and Lloyd and a few others that had been going down there were just
not appearing. Of course, the spots didn’t pay that much, but I just loved Opry. I said. "You think I could play some
spots with you down here?" He said, "Man, that would be great. I don’t have time to use the restroom. I’m just
sitting out here constantly." He said," Let’s go talk with Ott Divine." He was the manager at the time. I said, "Great!"
I asked Ott about it, if I could come in and help out. He said, "Man, we’d love to have you down here; come on." So
I did, and I did that for 6 or 7 months, and then Connie formed a band. I asked Ott, "Can I get a leave of absence so I can
try this out and see how it works?" So I was gone about 5 months picking with Connie. Then I saw it was going to be more lucrative
for me to stay in town. Because of her records, I was getting some calls to record. I left Connie’s band and went back
to the Opry, and Hal was still the only one there. I said, "I’m back!" Hal said, "Great! Glad to have you." I stayed
for 32 years.
Gib: The NTSGA is a club with a lot of camaraderie and
kinship and creativity. You guys get along so well.
Weldon: We do. Hal and I helped Sonny Burnette get in at the Opry.
He was doing the Ralph Emery early show and the Opry on the weekends. The three of us worked side by side doing our little
string parts and working with various artist for all those years together. We never had one falling out over anything. We
had artists that would switch us. They’d say, "I want to use you instead of Hal or Hal instead of Weldon." We never
had any hard feelings of that. It just seemed the natural thing to do. There wasn’t any hint of it.
Gib: Doesn’t a lot of that come from the instrument
itself; so creative that I don’t think pickers quibble over showing each other licks. I’ve seen you guys talk
for hours about how you do things.
Weldon: I tell Hal everytime I see him, "Hey, I haven’t learned
a new lick since you left the Opry." He would just laugh cause we would learn a lot of stuff from each other. Hal is an accomplished
musician. He gets pretty deep with it, a lot deeper than I ever dared to go. Because of recording being chief in my mind,
I have mentally stayed simpler in what I wanted to do. Eventually, for what ever reason, he quit the Opry. Then it was Sonny
and I for a few years, and then he left. He left because of his pension, and he had a bad hip. It was getting so hard for
him to carry his guitar out on the stage. So it was just me for the last several years I worked it.
Sonny worked with Webb Pierce for years. After Slowly came out, he
went to work with Webb and played Webb’s steel guitar, which was Bigsby pedal steel guitar. Bud Isaacs cut Slowly and
three or four other sides with Webb, and all those years it was Sonny Burnette. Without any knowledge who played it, most
people have never given Sonny the credit for some of the things he did. He actually did the follow up to Slowly which was
More and More. They told him, "We want to use the steel in the intro like Slowly, but we don’t to use that lick." So
he sort of reversed the lick if you recall. He also did a recording with Webb and Red Solvine Little Rosa, he did that, just
numerous hits Webb had in the 50’s.
Gib: Alan Jackson’s Chatahoochee. Wasn’t
Weldon: I did Chatahoochee. I think I did most of the songs on that
particular album. Pete Drake made a statement one time that stuck with me. He said, "The main thing to do when you are recording
is to try to make a difference. Make a good difference that makes that record commercial." I’ve always thought about
that. I’ve tried to use that philosophy.
Gib: Well, congratulations. You really get it done.
Weldon: Thanks, Gib.