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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the origins and development of the pedal steel guitar, showing the evolution of instrument traditions as an undercurrent to histories of genre and style. The pedal steel’s emergence in the early 1950s was a continuation of developments from the previous decades, as the exploration of technological answers to the musical “problems” of the steel guitar led to an expanded palette of sounds and gestures. The development of the instrument’s technology and vocabulary occurred within a community of musicians and makers whose priorities both reinforced and challenged the aesthetic values of country music. This history is illustrated through transcriptions and analyses of recordings by key innovators of the 1950s–1970s. The chapter concludes by discussing different trajectories of the pedal steel in the twenty-first century, where it remains a crucial part of country music but has also found a place in other genres and styles.

Keywords: Instruments, technology, musicians, community, pedal steel guitar

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