Guit-Steel is Not the Only Invention Junior Brown Dreamed Up

Junior Brown brings the Guit-Steel and Pedal Guit-Steel to San Juan Capistrano. (juniorbrown.com)

Junior Brown had a dilemma when it came to getting everything he could out of his signature Guit-Steel electric guitar/lap steel guitar hybrid.

Steel guitars, which are usually played sitting down with the fret board pointed up like a keyboard, are usually played sitting down. But Brown, who brings his amazing cowbilly show to the Coach House Friday night, plays the Guit-Steel standing up. His dilemma involved the pedals.

Brown has a volume pedal on the floor for his electric guitar, and the steel guitar has a set of pedals like a piano’s so he can play scales without moving the bar or push them while striking a chord to make passing notes slur or bend up into harmony with existing notes.

But what about a volume pedal for the steel guitar? Brown can control the existing pedals with each foot, but he would need a third leg for a volume pedal on the floor for the steel.

“I tried to talk him into a sphincter button,” jokes Michael Stevens, the luthier who met Brown on the Austin, Texas, music scene years ago and helped him develop the Guit-Steel. “You’d just squeeze your cheeks.”

Man of Guit-Steel: Meet the luthier who helped Junior Brown create his signature instrument(s)

Brown obviously did not appreciate the humor that will serve Stevens well when he makes a return visit to the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, in late January.

The mini-volume pedal and (inset) Junior Brown’s elbow pushing it.

“He said, ‘Aw, I’ll just do without it,’” Stevens recalls Brown saying about a volume pedal for the steel.

But perhaps the idea of placing a pedal near a movable body part (other than the sphincter) stuck.

“He decided to use his elbow,” says Stevens.

A mini-volume pedal was actually developed on Brown’s orders by Dunlop Manufacturing of  Benicia, California.

Stevens, who owns Stevens Musical Instruments in Alpine, Texas, remained involved, taking apart the Dunlop creation and adding a spring and limiter switch to it, he says.

“Now he had to learn to play it,” Stevens said of Brown and the Pedal Guit-Steel. “It’s not that easy. We had to make adjustments.”

That obviously happened, as Brown demonstrates.

 

“He’s a genius,” Stevens says of Brown. “He knows more about effects pedals than most guys who sell them. We went to a [merchandise] show where a bunch of effects pedals were displayed. There was not one where he didn’t know when it was made and what it did. He has a library in his head.”

Junior Brown performs at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 496-8930; thecoachhouse.com. Fri., 8 p.m. $22. All ages. 

Learn more about Stevens Electrical Instruments at stevensguitars.com.

OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.

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