Sonny Garrish, a steel guitarist who played on countless Nashville sessions from the 1960s through the 1990s, reminisces during this Nashville Cats program about his early interest in the instrument and the country legends he’s worked with along the way. Held December 1, 2018, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the interview is led by Bill Lloyd.
Garrish tells the audience that he hated taking steel guitar lessons as a kid. After he suggested that he could learn it on his own, he set his own self-taught course. In the front row of a Ray Price concert as a boy, Garrish stood close enough to steel guitarist Buddy Emmons to notice his tunings and copy his tricks.
The desire to play remained strong for the decades to follow, as Garrish went on to record with Bill Anderson and work with studio icons such as producer Owen Bradley and guitarist Grady Martin. A recorded track titled “Slidewalk” is presented from a 1977 compilation album titled “The Nashville Bar Association,” featuring a number of the era’s steel guitarists.
Garrish’s sessions in the 1970s and 1980s included The Judds, The Forester Sisters, Ronnie McDowell, Terri Gibbs, and Eddie Rabbitt. In the 1990s, his steel guitar could be heard on hits by Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney. The program is filled with audio examples of Garrish’s versatility as a player, even when producers wanted “steel that didn’t sound like steel,” as Lloyd puts it. Garrish also talks about his experiences recording with B.B. King, Leon Russell, and Roy Rogers.
Although he is retired, Garrish reflects on his long career by saying. “I could never go more than three days at the most without touching my steel, or it felt like my hands had never played steel before. So, I always carried that thing with me. If I ever went on vacation back to Maryland, or to Florida, I wanted to get on that thing a few hours every couple days or I was in for it when I got home.”
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