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Bobby Bowman Interview

Bobby Bowman

The following interview by Gib Sun took place at the NTSGA Superjam, October 4, 2004 in Nashville, Tennessee and appeared in the Steel Guitar Rag.

SGR: What a great show you put on tonight!

Bobby: Thank you, Gib. I try to play what I feel and what God put’s inside of me to play. I hope I came a little close.

SGR: It was a pleasure watching you work with those great Nashville musicians. The sound was great coming from the stage.

Bobby: Living in Houston, I don’t have the chance to pick with Nashville people all the time. When I do get the chance, I’m thrilled and honored to take it.

SGR: Born in Texas?

Bobby: I was born in St. Joe Infirmary in Houston, Texas. Back in those days, they called it an infirmary, not a hospital. Where I grew up was more farm type. Now it’s part of the city of Houston. As a kid growing up in the late 30’s, early 40’s, we were about thirty miles out of town, but now that’s part of Houston.

SGR: When did you get your first steel?

Bobby: If you want to call it a steel, it was really a guitar that my daddy put a raised nut on to get the strings off the neck, when I was four years old.

SGR: Did you bar it or fingerpick it?

Bobby: It was more like rhythm. My daddy was an old time fiddler, what they called a breakdown fiddler. My oldest brother played rhythm guitar for him. That’s really what I wanted to be, but my fingers were too small at four years old to reach around a guitar neck. So daddy just tuned it in E, raised the strings up for me and gave me a Barlow knife, I mean a real Barlow knife and a flat pick. I learned to play rhythm with them and moved the bar up and down according to the chord changes.

SGR: When did you start using pedals?

Bobby: Really, pretty late. Thanks to a fellow named Bert Reveria, at the time was playing with Hank Thompson. I was in the service. This would be around 1960. I went to see them, and I saw this thing up there that was a little different. It was a pedal steel. I had seen some of the old Gibson Electra-Harps, the Multi-Kords, but we didn’t think of them back in those days as we do now. In 1960 was when I started playing modern day’s pedal steel guitar.

SGR: Would you call yourself predominately an E9 or C6 guy?

Bobby: I certainly have more request and opportunity to play E9, but I really enjoy a lot of C6 and that type of stuff.

SGR: Bobby, thanks for your time.

Bobby: You’re welcome my friend.

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