My late husband used the phrase “Out of West Hell” when someone was beyond great at something. While I never knew where West Hell was, it obviously produced the best of the best.
Most of you know I attend a lot of live music events and once in a while, there is a musician that literally makes my jaw drop. That is exactly what Guitarist, Steve Rhian did. Wow!
While most of the attention and focus goes to the singer or band leader, without great musicians behind them, they wouldn’t be the popular stars they are.
I wanted to know more about this incredible player. So, here’s what I found out.
Like most dedicated musicians, Steve began playing music at a young age. He recalls his earliest influences to be Motown and R & B, “I put coins on top of the LP to slow down Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay” to figure out the parts. I wore that old record player out and probably ruined more than a few 45s and vinyl records back then.”
But that was only the beginning. Steve goes on. “The Beatles and Rolling Stones had been out for a little while but it was “Sympathy For The Devil” that made me sit up and take notice. I think that record more than any other was responsible for changing the pop culture. In my mid-teens, I had all the standard influences like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and of course Jimi Hendrix. It was an exciting time with so many emerging great players and new sounds being created. But, this is what drove so many of us.”
I wonder how many can say they saw Jimi Hendrix at a live show? Steve Rhian did and he recounts the event. “I got see Jimi Hendrix at Temple University Stadium in Philadelphia and he was amazing. This was an outdoor football stadium and little fires were burning all around not to mention Jimi lighting up his Fender Strat near the end of the show like a ritual. Yeah, it was burning.”
And the desire to learn to play, and to play well, continued for Steve Rhian. There is a common thread among these phenomenal players and it usually has to do with studying under some of the greatest around. Steve spent many years studying Danny Gatton‘s emotional range and depth of playing, and got to hang out with him on several occasions. Danny was known as “The Telemaster.”
Steve also studied under Australian Jazz guitarist, Steve Brien. I will say firsthand, the jazz influence comes out in a big way when Steve plays. Others Steve studied along the way, were D’Jango Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, both stellar jazz players. Steve is a huge fan of Gypsy Jazz, which Reinhardt and Grappelli put on the map.
He had this to say about D’Jango and Stephane. ” I still go back and listen to those old “Hot Club” recordings and would probably have to put D’Jango at the top of the greatest guitarists of all time pile, when you consider there were few blueprints back then and he only had partial use of his fretting hand. Lenny Breau is another I would have to include.”
An avid student is always learning and that couldn’t be more true for Steve Rhian. In his own words. “In 1990, I headed to Cincinatti to meet with renowned guitarist Scotty Anderson. I spent about a week with him soaking it up but it took years to assimilate some of his techniques and of course, I was altering things to fit my sensibilities as I got more comfortable with it. Scotty’s groundbreaking harmonized double and triple stop runs are beyond the grasp of most players but sure are fun to listen to, along with his jazz infused country lines. I played a lot of guitar that week. I’ve always been influenced by great playing. If it spoke to me, I wanted learn it.”
More guitar greats that drew Steve Rhian’s attention were Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Doc Watson and Norman Blake. Here’s a video clip that showcases this style of picking from Steve Rhian. Click HERE!
In the 90s, Steve met Deryl Dodd, who was playing lead guitar for Martina McBride at the time. They struck up a friendship and fast forward a few years, Deryl formed his own band, The Homesick Cowboys, with Steve on lead. And that brings it current as he is still a member of this band, which has had multiple chart-topping hit songs.
Steve has played on over sixteen album sessions. He is a highly sought after musician when artists go into the studio. Why? Because he’s a guitar picker “Out of West Hell!”
Click HERE for a video that shows off a tiny bit of Steve’s style.
I could write volumes about this extraordinary guitar player. Truly, he deserves recognition for his dedication to the craft.
If you ever have a chance to see Steve live with Deryl Dodd and The Homesick Cowboys, don’t pass it up! It’s guaranteed entertainment.
You can learn more about Steve Rhian on his FACEBOOK page.