Instruments: Steel Guitar

Date of Birth: January 9, 1934

Place of Birth: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Date of Death: January 22, 1999

James Clayton Day, a true pedal steel guitar innovator specializing in hardcore honky-tonk and western swing, idolized Shot Jackson, Little Roy Wiggins, and Jerry Byrd as well as West Coast pedal steel pioneer Speedy West and western swing master Herb Remington. Playing (non-pedal) steel as a teenager, he landed a job on Shreveport's Louisiana Hayride, remaining there into the 1950s. He backed many Hayride performers who became fifties megastars, including Hank Williams, Faron Young, Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley, and Jim Reeves.

Day, who eventually became a regular member of Reaves's mid-1950s touring band, changed to a pedal steel. When Reeves moved to Nashville, Day came along in late December 1955. In January 1956 Ray Price asked him to join his Cherokee Cowboys. Day remained with them, except for two brief absences, until 1962. He quickly placed his imprint on Price's sound, beginning with solos and fills on Price's 1956 smash "Crazy Arms." Day's sensitive way of modulating from one chord to another also created rich, stunning tonal colors on Price's "Heartaches by the Number," "City Lights," "Invitation to the Blues," and on Charlie Walker's 1958 hit "Pick Me Up on Your Way Down."

In 1962, Day left Price to work with former Cherokee Cowboy Willie Nelson, whose hit recording of "Touch Me" had launched a solo career. Day also made two solo LPs for Philips in 1962 and 1963. In the mid-1960s, Day worked on his own with both Price and nelson. Day continued working with Nelson when the singer moved to Austin, Texas; Day can be heard on nelson's 1973 Shotgun Willie LP. In addition, Day recorded a solo LP for DeWitt Scott's Mid-Land label. Day was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1982.

Rich Kienzle

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

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