Confessions of a Dobro Player:

Well, I don't have an actual Dobro made by the Dobro Company, so you probably shouldn't call me a Dobro player. And I don't tune like a Dobro player usually tunes a Dobro I use these open tunings that are really more like the ones blues guys use for slide guitar. Or like old style Hawaiian guitar players use on steel guitars Low Bass but tuned slack to a G chord, except I use the A tuning on my National Hawaiian Triplex Chord changer, that I also re-tune to an A6th, but not by using the machine heads set up to change tunings because I don't tune it to standard Dobro tuning, one note higher - and the string I change doesn't have a machine head that moves when you shift the lever on that particular string. Maybe I'm a steel guitar player, but not a pedal steel player because I've only got two lap steel guitars and only one lap. Maybe I'm a slide player: Some call me Tim, but some call me Slider...

Further Confessions: The Truth about “Blue Flowers”

“Blue Flowers,” as it appears on “Jugs Across America,” wasn’t recorded at WPKN Radio by Alex Hunt for his “Great Experiment” of having live music on his show for the first time. It may say that on the liner notes, in very tiny letters, but it’s not true.

What really happened is that Phil recorded a really nice little version of the song as he played a jug along with Todd (the Toad) on mandolin and a guy named Washtub Bob playing guitar, kazooing a kazoo, and singing a song that a small child actually wrote the lyrics to. I think they had gotten together in anticipation (or dread) of Alex’s upcoming show. It was possibly on a Saturday when I was working and couldn’t make it. I think. I’m pretty sure that was October 2006 and Phil had a hand held recording device of some kind that he recorded that version of the song with.

The four of us met up with Alex, went on the air and had a good time. Alex recorded the whole thing and there is a version of “Blue Flowers” that exists on what came to be called “Peakin’ on ‘PKN.” A (real) Hawaiian guitar player commented on my “nice vibrato” on some of those other songs, but it was really just nervousness coming from my brain, down my arm, through the slide and out over the airwaves.

This was also around the time my daughter Katie had just set up a MySpace page for us and I had relatively few songs that the recording quality was good enough to put up on the page. I think Bob or Phil might have emailed me the mp3 of the rehearsal recording of “Blue Flowers” and I used my $7 microphone to overdub a lap steel track over that. I stuck it up on the MySpace page – even put it up again during the Holidays with an overdub of me singing the words to “Blue Christmas” over the already existing version of the tune.

I don’t remember exactly when – although I’m sure it was in the morning – I tried an A6th tuning out on my 1951 lap steel guitar, originally marketed as a “National Hawaiian Triplex Chord Changer.” The guitar is supposed to be tuned to the standard Dobro tuning, and you should be able to shift this little “suicide-shift” lever on it and change tunings but it never worked for me. It seems I learned these old blues tunings long before ever actually investigating how a Dobro was supposed to be tuned – and the 1927 instruction book for Hawaiian Guitar I bought at my neighbors tag sale showed a tuning exactly the same as the one I always used, except one note higher. People sometimes call it the Taro Patch tuning.

So I tried the tuning out, playing along with some Hank Williams songs that use that tuning, which I had always assumed was pedal steel guitar, but turned out to be tunings Jerry Bird learned in Hawaii , played on a lap steel. Then I wondered which of our songs would sound good with that tuning and tried “Blue Flowers.” I turned on my recording program and I played along with that original recording from Ball Farm. After my hysterical laughter calmed down (it sounded a lot like the back ground music on SpongeBob), I did a second take and put up that recording in that form on MySpace. I was always going to redo it, adding some reverb to it, but the deadline for entries for the “Jugs Across America” drew too near, and I sent it off just as it was and it ended up as Track 14 on the CD…

Oct. 2008

Slider's Links

Slider's Youtube Page

Bethlehem Peace Watch

Wake Up on Turtle Island

Slider "Mad Dog" Music Downloads:

Blue Flowers

Miller & "Shishka"

Movin’ To Hawaii

"Shishka" & "Mad Dog"