Tuesday Tunes

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Tuesday Tunes
Tags: , , ,

Junior Brown “Highway Patrol”

 

Brown was born in Kirksville, Indiana. He first learned to play piano from his father “before I could talk”. His music career began in the 1960s, and he worked through that decade and the next singing and playing pedal steel and guitar for groups such as The Last Mile Ramblers, Dusty Drapes and the Dusters and A sleep at the Wheel while developing his astonishing guitar skills. By the mid-1980s he was teaching guitar at the Hank Thompson School of Country Music at Rogers State University, in Claremore, Oklahoma.

In 1985, Junior invented a double-neck guitar, with some assistance from Michael Stevens. Junior called the instrument his “guit-steel”. When performing, Junior plays the guitar by standing behind it, while it rests on a small podium/music stand. The top neck on the guit-steel is a traditional 6-string guitar, while the lower neck is a full-size lap steel guitar for slide playing. Brown has two guit-steels for recording and live work. The original instrument, dubbed “Old Yeller”, has as its standard 6-string guitar portion the neck and pickups from Brown’s previous stage guitar, a Fender Bullet. The second guit-steel, named “Big Red”, has a neck laser-copied from the Bullet neck, but in addition to electric guitar pickups, both the standard and lap-steel necks use an identical Sho-Bud lap-steel pickup. There is a pocket in the upper bout of the guitar to hold the slide bar when it is not in use.

Brown quickly became a local success in Austin, Texas, as the house band at the Continental Club. His debut album was 1990’s 12 Shades of Brown, released by the British Demon Records; it was re-released in 1993 on Curb Records in the U.S., followed by Guit with It. In 1995, Brown released Semi Crazy, and followed it with 1997’s Long Walk Back.

In 1996, Brown was featured on the Beach Boys’ now out-of-print album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 performing a cover of their 1962 hit “409”. The song features Brown playing guitar and singing lead with the Beach Boys singing harmonies and backing vocals. Brown also won the CMA Country Music Video of the Year award in 1996 for his video, “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” which featured 6-foot-7-inch Gwendolyn Gillingham.

Brown’s music has been showcased on various TV shows and movie soundtracks, including Me, Myself and Irene, SpongeBob SquarePants and the 2005 Dukes of Hazzard remake, in which he also played the narrator.

Although Brown plays traditional country and Hawaiian steel styles, few of his performances will finish without some blues playing and surf-rock instrumentals.

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