The Lap Steel Craze and the Gibson BR-9

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Before the electric guitar, lap steel was the coolest instrument a kid could play. Introduced to the United States by Hawaiian emigres in wake of the 1898 annexation of Hawaii, the lap steel became hugely popular in the first half of the 20th century. It was on the cutting edge of technology not once, but twice: first, on its invention in the 1880s, and later as one of the first amplified instruments. Played with a high action and a metal slide bar, it allows a musician to unlock all of those interesting microtonal pitches that hide behind the frets of a guitar. Manufacturers instantly capitalized on the craze by releasing lap steels bundled with instructional booklets, sheet music, and eventually amplifiers. 

Nobody did this better than Gibson. if you were a kid in the 40s or 50s looking to play the hottest new instrument, your best choice was the Gibson BR-9. Paired with a practice amp (often the GA-5), trimmed in rich Cremona brown lucite, and conveniently decked out with fret numbers, it was the perfect axe for an up-and-coming steel player. And it wasn't a bad time to be a beginner: this generation produced legends like Santo Farina, Freddie Roulette, Al Perkins, Don Helms, and Buddy Cage. 

With history, classic Western vibes, and a Gibson pedigree, the BR-9 is the iconic steel guitar that time forgot. We're always thrilled to have one in stock. Enjoy these detail shots of our latest. 


Further Reading

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