I grew up in Lethbridge Alberta, and currently make my home in Edmonton. In the eighteen or so years in between those two towns I divided my time mostly between Toronto and Vancouver. Music has been an abiding passion for me, and of all my achievememnts, the one I am proudest of is achieving a level of proficiency on pedal steel.
It must have been Buddy Cage, Sneeky Pete Kleinow and Gerry Garcia, at the “Festival Express” in Calgary, 1970, who really woke me up to Pedal Steel. I do know that after that weekend, I was sold on the sound. I was a guitar player and singer in various justly forgotten bands in the Lethbridge area, and I was desperate to have a steel in the band. I remember watching Stan Stewart for hours trying to figure out how his steel worked. In ’75 or ’76 I ordered an MSA “Sidekick”, sight unseen. My current steel is an EMCI, and I still use the Webb I bought from Al Brisco in the late ’70’s, by which time I was in Kingston, Ontario.
I don’t think there is a steel player around who wasn’t influenced by people like Lloyd Green, Buddy Emmons and Hal Rugg. If I were to name a couple of my biggest influences, though, I would say Pete Drake and Weldon Myrick.
In Kingston, I fell in with some local musicians, and earned some extra bucks while going to law school playing giutar, singing and, increasingly, playing steel (I had a Sho-Bud by then). The late Tom Keates taught me a lot. Bruce Hamilton was another local player who gave me some good tips. Don Cochrane and Sweet Clover gave me some early exposure, and pretty soon I felt pretty comfortable on stage.
Later, In Toronto, Al Brisco gave me some lessons which took me to a new level. I played with a popular bar band called Bad Reputation, and with Joe Sloan and the Stone River Band. Bad Reputation left me with permanent minor hearing loss, and Joe Sloan introduced me to what I still believe are some of the nastiest bars in Canada. I also played with my brother’s Ottawa-based “Great Divide” as time and geography permitted, and filled in for various Toronto bar bands.
Bob Blair divides his time between Lethbridge and Edmonton, Alberta and Gabriola Island, British Columbia. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, Bob regularly performs on guitar, Pedal Steel Guitar, Dobro and Weissenborn. As a pedal steel guitarist Bob gained his early experience playing steadily on the Eastern Ontario and Toronto club circuit. In addition to live performances across Canada with Andrea House, Charlie Ewing and numerous other artists, as well as solo appearances, Bob has been a session player on a number of CD’s and jingles. He has been a performer at the Canadian Steel Guitar Show, the Texas Steel Guitar Association Annual Jamboree in Dallas and the Southwestern Steel Guitar Association Steel Guitar Show in Phoenix.