Though the steel guitar once defined country music, it doesn’t get much attention on the airwaves today.
But the instrument that gives traditional country music its twang shines on the stage of the Jaycee Building on Johnson Road in Belvedere four times each year at the Southern Steel Guitar Convention.
“Steel-guitar players are a great bunch of guys,” said Teresa Sweeney. “They love to get together and just play and enjoy each other. They help each other.”
Her husband, Mike Swee-ney, was the headliner for May’s convention, held Saturday and Sunday.
The two-day showcase began with a workshop Saturday presented by Sweeney, a Nashville, Tenn., artist who has played for country greats Jack Greene, Ray Price and Vern Gosdin.
At Saturday evening’s jam session, Sweeney and other steel guitarists played with a band, while a few couples two-stepped their way around the room.
The jam session is open to anyone who wants to play.
“Anybody that’s brave enough to get up on stage that wants to play, we let them do that,” said organizer Jerry Reece.
On Sunday, a playlist of steel guitar players were given about 30 minutes each to showcase their talents.
“We usually have one featured guest – someone that either currently works with an artist or (has) in the past,” said organizer Jerry Reece.
The Southern Steel Guitar Convention is in its 27th year, and Reece hopes to attract more people to the shows.
The conventions are held every year in February, May, August and November, and always on the third weekend of the month.
The jam sessions are free and admission to Sunday’s event is $10.
The convention was begun by Reece’s father, Charles Reece, and Charles Reece’s friend Buddy Walker, who wanted to have an event where steel guitar players could play together, fellowship and learn from each other.
The elder Reece and Walker have passed away. Jerry Reece said he wanted to continue the tradition they began in 1987.
“It’s a very difficult instrument to play. When you have an instrument that has 10 to 12 strings, eight floor pedals and six to eight knee levers on them, and you make music with it, it takes many years to do that,” Reece said.