Steel Guitarist Speedy West Dies

The prolific and pioneering steel guitarist Speedy West died on Saturday (Nov.15) in Broken Bow, Okla. He was 79. West’s explosive playing and his crash-bar technique attracted many fans and imitators. His playing, especially on hits by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Kay Starr in the 1950s, defined steel guitar playing and served as a bridge between western swing and rockabilly. His work with his guitar partner Jimmy Bryant — nicknamed the “Flaming Guitars” — has been described as dazzling and unparalleled. West and Bryant became the core of Capitol Records’ studio band. It was not for nothing that one album collection of his work was titled Steel Guitar From Outer Space. Wesley Webb West was born in 1924 in Springfield, Mo., and followed music to California, where he played live shows with Spade Cooley and Cliffie Stone. He recorded with artists ranging from Bing Crosby to Wanda Jackson and Moon Mullican. He played on Johnny Horton’s last album and on Loretta Lynn’s first. West later worked for the Fender guitar company and served as master of ceremonies at steel guitar conventions.