How to Play the Pedal Steel Guitar with Jonathan Gregg

Learn about Jonathan Gregg, one of Howcast's pedal steel guitar experts, in this Howcast video.

Hi, I’m Jonathan Gregg. I’ve been a musician most of my life. I play guitar, pedal steel and Dobro. I started with a guitar as a kid and played lots of rock-and-roll music, and ended up in some different original bands.

I was fascinated with a pedal steel from the time when I first heard it played by Buddy Cage in The New Riders of the Purple Sage, who I saw on a Thanksgiving weekend back in 1972. It was really exciting to hear that sound in a slightly more rocking context, but still clearly attached to the country idiom. But in those days there were very few resources for pedal steel players, so that made it pretty hard.

I learned some stuff, was able to figure out a few things from records, but basically I had to put it aside for a while until I learned a lot more about music. After leading a band of my own called Jonathan Gregg and the Lonesome Debonaires, it finally broke up and I really didn’t have much of a clue what to do with myself at the time.

So I thought, why not revisit the pedal steel, and just fell in with it. It was much easier the second time around because I knew more and also because the resources were so much more available. I play in several different bands.

My main bands are the Doc Marshalls, Excellent Original Americana Material, The Linemen, where I play guitar and pedal steel and share the stage with an excellent songwriter named Kevin Johnson. And a band called The Combine that does instrumental versions of old ’60s-type tunes. That includes Josh Kaufman and Brian Canter from a band called The Yellow Birds.

These guys are really happening and it’s a great little band. I also play in a bluegrass outfit called The Crusty Gentlemen, where I play Dobro, which is basically the logical medium, happy middle point between the pedal steel and a regular guitar and is much easier to carry around. But the pedal steel can play any kind of music.

I’m very happy to share with you what little knowledge I’ve been able to accumulate in my time at it, and I look forward to hearing what you can do with it, too.