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Randy Beavers Interview

Randy Beavers

The following interview by Jan Jones appeared in the "Steel Guitar Rag" in 2005.

JJ: What got you playing steel and at what age?

RB: I was nine years old, and we lived in Tulsa. My dad got a little six-string Fender lap steel from my aunt. He brought it to the house and with me being a nine-year-old kid, I wanted to plunk around on it. My dad showed me "Candy Kisses." I believe he then showed me "Steel Guitar Rag." He had taken lessons himself before he got drafted in the army. He signed me up with Dick Gordon, the same teacher that he, my aunt and uncle had taken from. It was really quite a family thing.

JJ: Was your first gig a club gig?

RB: I played Cain’s Ballroom of all places when I was eleven years old.

JJ: You started off with a big one right off?

RB: I know. I remember the guy’s name: Benny Ketchum. He was popular around the area and had some regional hits. There were so many acts that came through there: Ernest Tubb, Jack Green, Buck Owens. All the big acts played Cain’s. The featured act would play the second and fourth sets and the house band would play the first and third sets. Most of the time I was playing in the house band and would get to meet everybody and hang out. What an experience! I’d get to go on Ernest Tubb’s bus, Buddy Charlton would show me things, it was quite a deal.

JJ: Where did you go from there?

RB: I was still in school. Tulsa had a pretty active music scene. There was a television show that came on at seven in the morning. I would play that two or three mornings a week. If I was late getting to school, all my teachers knew where I was because they would be watching the show. I was never without work in Tulsa. If the band I was working with had a weekend off, I would always pick up somewhere else to go play. My mom and dad would take me all over Oklahoma, southern Kansas and northeast Arkansas. My dad would have to carry my guitar into clubs for me. They were a lot heavier back then. I had a Fender Twin with two JBLs, so you know how heavy that was.

JJ: When did you come to Nashville?

RB: In 1986. I had worked with some acts out of Nashville when I was seventeen. Roy Clark was booked by the Jim Halsey Agency out of Tulsa. At the time, I worked for Don White and they used his band, so I worked for Roy quite a bit. I also worked for some of the other acts the Halsey Agency booked like Diana Trask, Freddy Fender and Freddy Weller. So in 1986, I came to Nashville with an artist named Larry Boone and worked the road for him for three years. I was thirty years old before I moved to Nashville, and I’d had my own my own drywall business since I was nineteen. For me to come to Nashville at thirty and work a road job was a little tougher for me. I’d already been around and done a lot of things, and that was not what I wanted to do.

JJ: Did you do a lot of session work?

RB: You know, when I first moved to town, Larry Boone was signed with Mary Tyler Moore Productions as a writer. I immediately got in doing their sessions there from doing Larry’s sessions and meeting other writers. I really got busy doing sessions right off. One of the things I didn’t realize: I felt I had to really be loyal to the guy I came here with. So when he had some records that started hitting and the road work started coming, as I look back now, I should have quit. I had enough session work and I was making a pretty good living doing that. Then, when I went out on the road, it pretty much ended. You’re only the new guy in town once.

After leaving the road, I started back doing sessions. I also had the option of doing the drywall business. I had that going on the side and I had my sessions. I honestly didn’t see it happening for me. I wasn’t willing to gamble that it ever would. I had an option that others didn’t: I could do something else for a living. I continued to do sessions up until 1994. In 1994, my dad died. It got me to thinking: the happiest times I ever had weren’t sitting behind my guitar, Cain’s Ballroom or any club. It was whenever we would load the boat and go to the lake. My kids were at that age, and they were missing out on this. Furthermore, I was missing out on it. So around the first of 1995, I said, "That’s it!" and I put it in the case. Here’s something that’s strange. I figured out a formula to get into session work around town: Quit! Everybody will be calling you. My phone never rang so much as when I quit. Word got out and I had a lot of people trying to book me for sessions, but I was serious. I was not going to do this anymore. I had one guy call and really chew me out for not returning his calls. He said, "You’ll never get any work in town not returning calls." I said, ""Look, I have quit. I’m out of it. I’m not going to do it anymore." There was a long silence on the phone, and he said, "Well, I have a session coming up next week. Can I get you to do just that one?" After chewing me out, here he was wanting to book me on a session! I was serious; I put it in the case. Not only was it in the garage, it was in a garage that is 125 feet away from the house. It didn’t come out until about 2002.

JJ: Who or what inspired you to bring it back out?

RB: It was the kids. They were doing their own thing. My daughter was married, off on her own. My son was older, and I’d done quite a bit of fishing already. I’ll tell you the odd thing that really got it back out. A builder that I worked for called and invited Judy and me to a Christmas party. They had all the subcontractors and the people that work for the company coming over. He said, "We’re going to feed you and entertain you." I asked, "Entertain us? What do you do?" He answered, "We have a little band." I said, "Oh, you do?" He said, "Yeah. Somebody had mentioned that you play a little slide guitar. Don’t you?" I answered, "Well, I used to." He said, "I’ll tell you what. We’re going to get up and do about forty-five minutes, and after that, you are more than welcome to get up and sit in with us."

So I got my guitar out of the garage, put new strings on it , polished it up, and tried to remember how to play a little bit of something again. What was comical was that the guitar player, the builder’s electrician, his wife had played steel and used some of Jeff Newman’s material. They came out to some of Jeff’s June Jams. The electrician asked, "What’s the guy’s name again?" The builder answered, "It’s Randy Beavers." The electrician said, "Oh, no! I don’t think you understand. This guy can play." Anyway, I went to the Christmas party, sat my guitar up, and we just had a ball that night. I was struggling so hard just to play, but they were playing good old country songs that I remembered, and I just had a ball. They started getting together once a week at the electrician’s house in the evenings, sitting around picking, and I would go over there an play. Through doing that, I got my interest back in playing.

JJ: Now you’re doing a number of steel shows around the country.

RB: I did seventeen shows last year.

JJ: Are there going to be more this year?

RB: Probably about the same, maybe a few less. I’ve got a few jobs here at home. I just put in a studio.

JJ: You have a new CD coming out?

RB: It just came out. It’s a gospel CD. It’s contemporary in nature, not southern gospel, a lot of pop/modern songs on it, songs that have crossed over that were hits in the secular field. A song that caught me by surprise was Ann Murray’s "You Needed Me." I never thought of that song as gospel, but she included it in a gospel album a few years back. When you look at the words, it’s a given. It was so much fun playing the song. It lends itself to so much expression. I used some great players in Nashville for this project: John Gardner on drums, Dave Pomeroy on bass, Catherine Marx on piano, and Kerry Marx, her husband, played a few guitar parts. I had my son play guitar on one of the tracks. I’m pretty fond of that part, that he is on here with me. It’s been a fun project that I’ve had in my head for a long time. At first, I thought about just including some gospel songs on another CD, but the more I thought about it, I really wanted to stay with the same theme throughout. One of the reasons for doing the gospel CD is I believe over half of the steel players today only play in church. You can go to to several churches in this county and you will see a steel set up.

JJ: What’s the future hold for Randy Beavers?

RB: I don’t know. At this point, it’s just to have fun doing it. I got burned out playing when I was trying to make a living doing it. You know, we all started playing music when we were kids just for the fun of it. We heard this thing and we liked it, and not one time did we ever think about practicing with the thought of making a lot of money with it someday. We did it because we loved the sound of it. Somewhere along the way, we tried to make money with it, and I think that’s when the fun leaves for some people.

JJ: Who are your heroes?

RB: Of course, Buddy and Lloyd. My first was Tom Brumley from all the Buck Owens albums, and of course, Lloyd when he was on Chart, Little Darling Records. I used to just dissect those records. I talked to Lloyd the other day and told him that on parts of this CD, I think I sound too much like him. But I said, "It’s gonna have to stay because that’s who I am." That’s what I learned, and the influence is there. And of course, Buddy. I remember when I first got the Black Album. That kind of changed me forever. Then I heard Buddy play live in St. Louis. The recordings can’t do justice to hearing Buddy live. It changed my whole way of thinking. I went down that road for many years, and am probably still on it, but I’m trying to do my own thing. However, the influence of those guys are there.

JJ: Randy, thanks a million for doing this.

RB: Thank you, Jan.

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