Monday, March 21, 2011
Legendary Studio Musician & Steel Guitarist Ralph Mooney Passes
Ralph Mooney was one of the true steel guitar innovators in country music. He was born in Duncan, OK, and first became interested in the instrument after hearing another steel pioneer, Leon McAuliffe. As a teenager in the '40s, Mooney moved to California, where he gradually developed his style by exhaustive playing with numerous bands, in both live and studio situations. In the '50s and '60s, Mooney was hired as a staff musician for Capitol Records, where he played on the early recordings of Buck Owens and is heard prominently on several Merle Haggard hits, including "Swinging Doors," "The Bottle Let Me Down," and "(All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers." Throughout the years, Mooney left his mark on recordings by Wynn Stewart (that's his steel on "It's Such a Pretty World Today"), Warren Smith, Rose Maddox, Skeets McDonald, Bobby Austin, Bonnie Owens, Wanda Jackson, Donna Fargo, and Jessi Colter.
His longest running stint was with Waylon Jennings, whom Mooney joined in 1970 and stayed with until he retired in the early '90s. While Mooney is known mainly for his steel playing, he also dabbled in songwriting. His biggest hit was "Crazy Arms," which he co-wrote with Chuck Seals in the mid-'50s.
Even though Mooney spent most of his life playing on the recordings of others, he did release an instrumental album on Capitol Records in 1968 called Corn Pickin' and Slick Slidin' with guitarist James Burton.
Mooney had not performed often in recent years, but he was persuaded to record "Crazy Arms" on Marty Stuart's latest album, Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, a project that won a Grammy earlier this year. Mooney will be buried Wednesday (March 23) in Arlington.