Lawrence County Museum of History

Lawrence County Museum of History & Edward L. Hutton Research Library

One of Bud Isaacs' performance shirts is included among many other mementos  in the exhibit.

One of Bud Isaacs' performance shirts is included among many other mementos  in the exhibit.

Bud Isaacs just wanted to play music

Bud was born in Bedford, Ind., in 1928 to Cecil Ray and Iva Jaynes Isaacs. His father, Cecil, was a millworker at Bedford Cut Stone Company. Due to the Great Depression (1929 to the late 1930s decade) jobs and money were scarce. The family home was in Englewood, but they later moved to 2107 H Street. He attended school at Lincoln Elementary and Bedford High School.

“John Boy” Smith was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) worker who lived near Thornton Park, and he gave guitar lessons at Bedford High School. Bud’s sister, Elma, took lessons from “John Boy,” and Elma taught Bud.  Bud’s mother played the piano, but she loved to hear steel guitar music.

The Isaacs family listened to the Grand Ole Opry, the National Barn Dance, and the Midwestern Hayride. Iva wanted Bud to play just like Jerry Byrd, who was the steel guitar player they listened to on the radio at the time. She enrolled Bud in the Awahoo School of Music above Hoover’s Confectionary in downtown Bedford and paid for his lessons by selling homemade baked goods.

Bud always remembered his old neighborhood where they used to sit out on the corner under the street light and sing.

At one time, Bud hitchhiked to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn. He got an audition with Pee Wee King’s band but lost the job when they discovered he was just fourteen years old.

Bud also remembered two special Bedford friends, George Pollard and “Horseshoe” Watson. They used to go to Blue Hole Quarry where they alternated playing music and taking a swim or going downtown to play music and “pass the hat.”

When he was sixteen, he landed a job in San Antonio, Texas, and quit school. Miss Molly Box, the high school principal, wanted him to stay in school, but when Bud told her the job paid $50 a week, she told him, “That’s more than I make.”

After six months, Bud returned to Bedford. Bud’s father found employment at Crane Naval Depot when it opened.  Bud, too, worked at the Crane Naval Depot for a short time, but he just wanted to play music.

He worked at radio stations in Indianapolis, Saginaw, Michigan, and Middletown, Ohio.

His first recording session was in 1950 with Red Perkins at King Records Studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bud also played on the “Friday Night Frolics” in Nashville, Tenn.

In 1954, Webb Pierce’s recording of “Slowly,” with Bud on the steel guitar, charted No. 1 on the “Billboard” magazine for 17 weeks. Bud was part of the RCA Victor Country & Western Caravan tour that year.

The Gibson Company provided Bud with the new steel guitar he had designed.

In 1972, he married Geri Mapes, a singer, yodeler, songwriter and musician, and they lived in Arizona. Bud Isaacs died Sept. 4, 2016.

When Bud died, Saving Country Music.com remembered him: “Bud Isaacs wasn't just a steel guitar player, he was the man who revolutionized the instrument by adding the foot and knee pedals that allow the steel guitar to change the pitch of singles strings as opposed to having to change to a different chord all at the same time.”

Bud was inducted into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame, the Colorado Country Music Hall of Fame, the Arizona Country Music Hall of Fame, and the California Western Swing Society Hall of Fame.

You can hear Bud play “Bud’s Bounce” and other of the very best of Bud Isaacs at: http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/steel-guitar-revolutionary-bud-isaacs-has-died/

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