Steel Guitar Pioneer Buddy Emmons Dies At 78

Buddy Emmons.

Buddy Emmons.

Steel guitar pioneer Buddy Emmons died Wednesday, July 29 at the age of 78.

Emmons played with such musical legends as Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, Ray Charles, Roger Miller, George Strait, Faron Young, Judy Collins, The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, Nancy Sinatra and Emmylou Harris. His songwriting can be heard on Kacey Musgraves‘ latest album on the bonus track “Are You Sure.”

Born in Mishawaka, Ind., Buddie Gene Emmons (nicknamed The Big E) began playing a lap steel at the age of 11. He was professional by the age of 16. His move to Nashville in 1955 led to his joining Little Jimmy Dickens‘ band at the age of 18. He also lived in California.

He led a new style in playing, credited with the “split pedal” sound, which divided one of the instrument’s pedals in two and added strings for modified tuning.

He recorded a 1963 album with that trademark instrument titled, Steel Guitar Jazz in addition to releasing DVDs and seasonal albums. A tribute album was organized in 2013 by steel guitarist Steve Fishell featuring Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Dan Dugmore, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell.

Emmons has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and events at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

He is preceded in death by his wife Peggy. Arrangements were not immediately available.


Powered by Facebook Comments

Follow MusicRow on Twitter


Category: Featured, Obituary

About the Author

Eric T. Parker oversees operations and contributes editorial for MusicRow's print magazine,, the RowFax tip sheet and the MusicRow CountryBreakout chart. He also facilitates annual events for the enterprise, including MusicRow Awards, CountryBreakout Awards and the Rising Women on the Row. [email protected] | @EricTParker

View Author Profile