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  1. A really great article on a man who likely influenced many lap steel players of the swing, big band & Western swing era that grew during & after this period. It brings to mind early & influential lap steel players like Bob Dunn. Of course, pedal steels came into vogue after this, especially with hillbilly bands & Country groups.It’s interesting to see an early interplay of steel guitar & blues long before the rise of so many great slide players in the blues. Very sad & mysterious about his wife, I’m sure it was quite an item in it’s time. We do seem to forget so many women in music, especially ones like Sister Rosetta Tharp, Geeshie Wylie, Marie Evans, Miss Lavelle & Big Mama Thornton, the last two being on Duke/Peacock, 2 of Don Robey’s great Blues, Soul & Gospel labels. A most excellent article indeed!

  2. Thanks for the article. I was wondering about Helen’s steel guitar playing. Rockwell’s Hawaiian discography lists her as playing steel guitar only on three unissued solo recordings for Columbia on 8/6/15, but as playing guitar (or banjo) to Ferera’s steel guitar on all other recordings. Do you have any information about this? Or is it a case of a woman couldn’t possibly play piano like Louise Johnson?

    1. Many thanks for the feedback, Mark, and your interest. Let me try and answer your query. Helen must have played a regular acoustic guitar before her death in 1919. This is because the metal National Resonator guitar was only introduced in 1927, specifically because regular acoustic guitars could not be heard over Hawaiian bands. That was well after 1915, of course. The inventor, John Dopyera, then broke away from National in 1928 to manufacture the rival Dobro metal resonator guitar. The name stands for Dopyera Brothers. The first electric lap steel was introduced by Rickenbacker in 1932, so I’m not exactly sure what Rockwell’s discography means when it talks about steel guitars being around in 1915.

      1. Thanks for the reply! Sorry for a misunderstanding! Actually, I was using the term ‘steel guitar’ in the sense of ‘Hawaiian guitar’ or ‘slide guitar’ (as does Rockwell), not the material the guitar was made of. So I guess my question is, was Louise just fretting while Frank was sliding? Sorry for the confusion. (Good to run across your site! And thanks for the history refresher.)

  3. No problem, Mark. I’m afraid your question will have to remain unanswered, as I’d only be guessing if I said Louise was just fretting.

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