Pedal steel guitarist Ernie Hagar (1938-2006) was originally from Ontario, Canada and appeared on various CBC radio and TV shows as a kid, before moving to California in the early 1960s, where he made a name for himself on the blossoming West Coast country scene. Hagar cut this album for the western-oriented budget label Sage Records, backed by a band that he called the String Dusters. In the early '70s, Hagar was living in California's central coast, near Salinas, where he played local club dates and did session work whenever it came along. He joined the Commander Cody Band in 1975 and later played steel on the first two Larry Hosford albums. Here's a quick look at his work...
Ernie Hagar "Swingin' Steel Guitar" (Sage Records, 1965) (LP)
Considered by many to be one of the finest pedal steel albums ever recorded... Hagar cut this album when he was living in Los Angeles, doing session work for the western-oriented budget label Sage Records, backed by a band that he called the String Dusters. Also on board was lead guitarist Jimmy Wright, who worked with Hagar on and off for several years...
Jan Bird "...Sings Down Home Sounds, With Ernie Hagar's Swingin' Steel" (Meagher Electronics, 1973) (LP)
(Produced by Jim Meagher & Paul Smith)
Folkie singer-guitarist Jan Bird was originally from Weed, California and she'd moved to Monterey and was playing gigs at the Highlands Inn, in Carmel at the time she cut this album. Local steel guitar whiz Ernie Hagar plays pedal steel and dobro on here, as well as arranging the album, with banjo plunking by Bob Cameron, and guitar and bass by Russ Allen. Bird balances a few folkie tracks like "Last Thing On My Mind" and "Fire And Rain" against a raft of country tunes -- stuff "Heartaches By The Number," "Cold Cold Heart" and "It's Such A Pretty World Today." Interesting song selection, with a cool cast of characters from California's Central Coast.
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen "Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen " (Warner Brothers, 1975)
Larry Hosford "AKA Lorenzo" (ABC/Shelter, 1975) (LP)
A classic! Ernie Hagar worked with Santa Cruz songsmith Larry Hosford on his first two albums, adding some truly sweet twang to these catchy, essential albums. Hosford is one of the great alterna-country MIAs, and the songs from his two classic albums just scream out for a single-CD reissue. This album, in particular, is packed with great tunes, including "Taking Applications," "Kings and Queens" and "Wimmin's Got Me Swimmin" ("...in a pool of tears/my baby's got me started, but she won't shift my gears...the lights on Lover's Highway all say stop/if I had another beer, I'd pop its top"). If you ask me, Hosford's best songs were easily on a par with Harlan Howard's work from the late '50s and 1960s, demonstrating a wily understanding of the craft of the novelty song, mixing clever couplets with slice-of-life asides. Combined with his distinctly un-slick hick vocals, it's a winning package. Highly recommended.
Larry Hosford "Cross Words" (ABC/Shelter, 1976) (LP)
(Produced by Dino Airali & Larry Hosford)
Another great, great indie country album. The gimmick with this record is a series of short acoustic bookends, crossword puzzle clues to words a relationship on the skids ("fight," "goodbye," "the end", etc...) In addition, there are several great Hosford originals, though the writing is a little bit denser than on the first album, and only a couple that are just plain outright catchy toe-tappers. A shame his Okie-billy ode, "Salinas" never made it onto LP, too... Plenty of great musicians on board as well, including a mix of Northern California locals and studio pros. Highly recommended!
Ernie Hagar "Steel Guitar Odyessy" (Mid-Land Records, 1978) (LP)
Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen "Lost In Space" (Relix, 1993)
A reissue of a 1975 radio performance featuring a classic lineup of the Commander Cody band...
Hick Music Index