Born in the 1953, in Floyd County, eastern Ky. I started playing guitar at the age of 12. Played guitar in local high school bands during my early teen years then out of necessity I moved on to bass guitar and played bass guitar all my years of high school and college. Early musical influences were Santana, Steppenwolf, Chicago Creedence Clearwater Revival, Eagles…etc.

Dropped out of college in 1972 and left for Columbus, Ohio. Worked at Buckeye Steel for ten years before coming back to good ole KY. While in Columbus I learned to flat pick the guitar and play the banjo and followed the Bluegrass circuit, never playing in a Bluegrass Band.

In 1976/1977 I started back listening to groups like The Marshall Tucker Band and Eagles The sound of the steel guitar seemed to just leap off the vinyl so thought I’d try it. I was up for the challenge so I bought myself a Sho-Bud Maverick and had never seen a pedal steel guitar played live. I had no idea of who Buddy Emmons or Lloyd Green..etc were. After about six months a gospel group came to the little county church on Midland Ave in Columbus, Ohio that I had started attending. I remember the group was the Singing Murphys and the leader of the group, Virgil Murphy, was playing a pedal steel guitar. I hooked up with him and gleaned all I could from him then he introduced me to Gary Preston, little did I know then that Gary would remain one of my life long friends. Gary took me under his wing for a couple of years before I moved back to Ky in 1982, by then I graduated to a Sho-Bud D-10.

I played in local gospel bands in 1982 thru 1987. In 1985 I went to Nashville and took the plunge, I traded the old Sho-bud to a 1975 Emmons push/pull and it remains the only steel guitar I own today.

By 1986, most gospel groups began using soundtracks and the need for a live band went by the wayside. I continued playing bass guitar in church and still do today. In 1997, after a long drought of only playing my steel guitar at home. I pushed out and got to play at a few gospel sings. By 2000 there were several home recording studios that were producing some good original material and everyone knew I played the steel guitar. That is the only thing that kept me playing the steel. I never had a desire to play in the night clubs but I kept up with the sounds of top 40 county and continue so today.

The past two years I have done a lot of session work courtesy of a close friend Tony Mullins, owner of Tubefi Studios in Pikeville, Ky. I must say that playing in the studio has rekindled my desire to be a better musician. Admittedly, I would like to play mainstream country music if I could do so in a family atmosphere like outdoor festivals ..etc. I don’t consider myself a great player but I sure like to play.
lloyd green

With Lloyd Green.

I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of my steel guitar heroes through another close friend and steel guitarist, Bob Knight. Bob has been instrumental in introducing me a lot of great musicians . Bob and I stopped by Lloyd Greens house and we were privileged to listen to the rough mix of his newest Instrumental CD entitled “Revisited” at that time. Lloyd was also sharing with us his return to session work and how he had just played a session for Alan Jackson. He didn’t even know if he was in the mix. That song was “Remember When”. Lloyd is truly a great player and good friend to all. The visit with Lloyd and his wife Dot will remain a highlight of my musical career.

Russ Hicks, Jeff Peterson, Jimmy Crawford, Rick Johnson

Russ Hicks, Jeff Peterson, Jimmy Crawford and Rick Johnson.

Bob Knight and I together visited Jimmy Crawford’s home as well as Russ Hicks home. Having met John Hughey and Buddy Emmons, Hal Rugg Jeff Newman, Don Helms, Paul Franklin, Bruce Bouton and countless others, I have to say that they were all most gracious and its as if I have known them all my life. Since then Jeff and Hal and Jimmy Crawford have passed away, these were some of the musicians that influenced me early on and their music continues on timelessly. There is great sense of family among steel guitarist. Perhaps it’s the love and complexity of the instrument that bonds us together.

With Buddy Emmons in Nashville.

With Buddy Emmons.

One other aspect of life that seems to parallel my musical career is the fact that I started into woodworking in 1989 and started building furniture, my goal was to produce heirloom quality furniture that would last a lifetime. I’m proud to say that I did achieve this, even today I still find time to make custom projects for friends and family.

I have always been a collector of old Fender amplifiers and started restoring amps back to their original glory, along the way I started making amp cabinets that Fender never did. An example would be a 2/10 Super Reverb, 4/10 Princeton Rev or a 2/10 Tremolux Combo. Then I started making replicas of older cabinets because the old cabs were beyond repair. One thing lead to another and my woodworking hobby began to be a full time job. I still work a regular day job but who knows what tomorrow may bring. Because of cabinet building skills, I have had the pleasure of building cabs for many Nashville musicians. Thanks to the personal recommendations of those musicians, I’m pleased to say that my total cab count is approaching 300. I have cabinets in Hawaii, Australia and all over the United States and Canada.

Truly, without a doubt, if you have friends, you are wealthy.

I’m playing more steel now than ever. I’m building all the cabs that I want.

Rick Johnson