Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Pedal Steal Your Face Right Off Your Head

That there is a pedal steel guitar, Enthusiasts; specifically, a customized (of course) Zane Beck D-10 that Garcia bought in 1969. Two necks with ten strings, each in open tunings. Some pedal steels have only one neck, but Garcia was in the Grateful Dead, so we should probably just be glad he didn’t order one with nine necks.

The pedal steel guitar has more in common with Brent’s Hammond B3 than it does with Wolf or Tiger. All of your limbs are involved; in fact, one leg does double duty. Your right foot controls the volume (like the B3), but you need to use your left foot and knee. The three pedals lower the pitches of the strings, while the knee levers raise them. The slide goes in your left hand; picks on your right fingers; mute with your right hand. The upper strings of a double-necked guitar are usually tuned to E9, which looks like this: B-D-E-F#-G#-B-E-G#-D#-F#. Plus, if you were Garcia, you had a cigarette to manage.

I can’t imagine why he stopped playing the thing.


Full Muppet.


  1. For the record (’cause that is what I do), Garcia actually owned two Zane Beck pedal steel guitars. The first one was purchased in Denver in April 1969, and it rekindled his interest in the instrument. For unknown reasons, however–lack of customization?–Garcia bought another one in late ’69 or early ’70. So the picture here is probably the second pedal steel guitar, not the first one purchased in 1969.

    Garcia, being The Jer, actually gave the first one away to his old pal Peter Grant, who has used it ever since. As far as I know, he’s using it today.

  2. I’ll never forget JFK ’87 with Dylan. “Jerry disappeared! Where’s Jerry?” And then he starts playing pedal steel on I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight. A moment.

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