01. Pete Drake
Pete Drake (1932-1988) was a prominent session musician and producer in country music, working with the Nashville A-Team, as well as outside of the country world with artists like Bob Dylan, The Holy Modal Rounders, George Harrison, and more. But what always caught my attention about him was his innovative use of a piece of technology called the Talking Guitar Actuator, better known as a "talkbox." This device, commissioned by Pete and designed and built by Bill West, was intended for medical purposes, but took the music world by storm when the voice of an instrument was met with the vocal capabilities of a singer. Pete made a handful of solo records using this machine, as well as being featured on countless singles by artists like George Jones, Jeannie C. Riley and Roger Miller, to name a few. I spoke with some folks who worked closely with Pete at his Nashville Studio, as well as his widow Rose Drake and his son Johnny Drake, and finally got the inside scoop on the Amazing and Incredible Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar. Guest co-host Andrew Dorsett joins me on this first ambitious, albeit ham-fisted, episode.
Pete's label founded in the early 1980s has made some of his recordings available digitally on bandcamp: