December 23, 2003 by

Speedy West

17 comments

Categories: Musicians

Wesley Webb “Speedy” West, a steel guitar pioneer, died on Nov. 15. Cause of death was not released. He was 79.
West’s interest in music began in childhood when his father bought him a Hawaiian guitar. As an adult, he attended a Grand Ole Opry tent show and decided to pursue a career in music.
With only $150 in his pocket, he and his family moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles. He landed a job playing with the Spade Cooley band, and introduced audiences to the pedal-steel guitar. West was the first country music steel-guitarist to use pedals.
From 1950 to 1956, West recorded with Capitol Records, performing on more than 6,000 records for 177 different artists. It was during this time that he hooked up with electric guitarist Ivy Jimmy Bryant. Known as The Flaming Guitars, the duo released several albums, including “Two Guitars Country Style” and “West of Hawaii.”
West also produced Loretta Lynn’s first album, and Johnny Horton’s final one.

17 Responses to Speedy West

  1. Carl Martin

    I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. West in St. Louis at Scotty’s Steel Guitar Convention. He was very inspiring in my background in wanting to play the steel guitar back in the 70’s. He had a wonderful way of putting things and very easy to get along with. God rest his soul, he will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

  2. Ken Campbell

    I first met Speedy West at the Cliffy Stone Hometown Jamboree show in El Monte, CA in the ’50s. I was not even in my teens. I met him through Harry Rodkey, one of the entertainers on the show. Speedy inspired me to take lessons on the Hawaiian Steel and later on a single neck steel guitar.
    About four years ago, I happened upon a “Speedy West” playing at a club in Oklahoma City. When I went to the club, I found that he was Speedy West Junior had just turned the big 5 zero, and had followed in his fathers’ footsteps, albeit sometimes in a round-about way. For the next couple of years as my work took me to Oklahoma City periodically, I followed Speedy Jr from club to club and was favored with his friendship, fabulous entertainment and had many remenicences with him about his father and the “early years”.
    My sincere condolences. He will be sorely missed.

  3. Isabel Archer

    I Know Speedy West Jr. And he is so humble that he won’t admit that he is a legend himself. he is a good man and an amazing guitap p player that I have the distinct pleasure of knowing

  4. LISA COULTER

    I had the most wonderful opportunity of working with Gary, pardon me, Speedy Jr., in the 1970’s, and still get to jam with him whenever I get back to Oklahoma. What a generous man! After ten years across the globe, back and forth, I’m going back in a couple of weeks and can’t wait to look him up. He’s still, after 30 years, one of the most dynamic guitar players I’ve ever been lucky enough to play with. Roll on, Baby.
    Lisa (Bunny)

  5. Leona Jordan Byrne

    Speedy West must have been awesome…I saw Junior at a club in OKC in 1987 and bought a cassette tape entitled “SPEEDY WEST, JR./An American Guitar Player”. I played it til it broke and have carried it with me (broken) through 8 moves across the country hoping to get it fixed…I still hear that singing steel in my head but would love to hear it again for real.

  6. Martin Vergara

    I took guitar lessons from Speedy West Jr in 1993-94 at Granny’s Music Mall in Ok City, Ok. He was the first guitar teacher I had that would show me what I wanted to learn and play. I’d bring him Ozzy, Poison, Megadeth, and Skid Row songs and of course he’d show me how to play it. He was such a cool guy and I believe his girlfriend had a hair salon there. Speedy was the first to show me actual sweep picking and I saw a tape of him doing eruption and I said that’s who I want to learn from. So over 10 years later I’m still playing and I’ll never forget my teacher Speedy West Jr.

  7. Mark Stout

    I took lessons with speedy in 2004. I agree with everything Martin said about him. He could go from Metallica to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to System of a Down to blues to county and he was able to teach me everything I wanted to learn.

  8. Pamela Scott

    My name is Pamela and I dated Gary briefly back in like 1979/1980. My Mother hired the band he was in to play at my 18th birthday party. I was crazy for him and loved watching him play. I have a TON of pictures of him performing(the band was called Maya and they played at The Arches Club and The Sports Page and then later at Cajuns Wharf) but in the end couldn’t handle the jealousy I felt every time he went out into the audience during breaks and “worked the crowd”. The girls were always all over him and so in the end I said “Buh-Bye”, but we still managed to be friends and as the years went by I would sometimes run into him playing in some night club on a Sunday evening Jam Session. Still a hottie and still a sweetie. I hear he finally married, settled down and had a son. Anyone know where, if at all, he is playing at these days? e-Mail me at GnPareSoulMates@aol.com. I told my hubby (another “Gary”) how awesome he played the steel and acoustic guitar. However I never did tell him what Gary wanted to do to me with the “bar” that he used on his guitars! LOL!!!

  9. Bryan

    Pam,
    Yep; he plays at FRIENDS bar every Friday and Saturday night in a band called the Clique. By the way, are you the Pam that’s married to Linn Scott?

  10. Graciela Venera

    I´m form Argentina. I spent a year in Speedy´s home. I was his “argentinian daughter” and he was “my american father”. I keep like a treasure the long play he gave to me. I´m going to the US next week and I´d like to find Gary West as well as Tauni and Opal.
    Graciela Venera

  11. Sunshine West

    I first saw Speedy Jr. at the age of six. In a momenent he had changed my life forever and it took me 18 years to find out who he was. Just before I realised who he was to me I had recieved two guitar lessons from him and he is the most amazing guitarist I’ve met. I am very privlaged to work for him every Sunday.

  12. Don Kirk

    In the late 1950’s I spent 8 weeks working with Cliffee Stone at Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim. I was 11 years old then. I was impressed with Speedy West’s playing and singer Molly Bee (also on the Hometown Jamboree show) told me that if I wanted, I could go on stage and watch him play up close. During rehersal breaks, Speedy showed me some things on his guitar and then sat me down at it and put his picks on my fingers and had me try what he’d shown me. I don’t know how many people Speedy let play his guitar; but it was his living and he trusted (me) and 11 year old to try and play it. The whold cast of the show took me in as “instant” family; and I’ve always had the fondest memories of them all; especially Speedy, for giving the 11 year old a chance to try and learn from him.
    Don Kirk – age 63; Redding, CA 01/06/2010
    don_l_kirk@hotmail.com

  13. Cheryl

    My girlfriend and I were good friends with Speedy and Kent Blessing when they played at Cajuns Whare in a band called Maya! We all went snow skiing together when they traveled to Colorado and had a great time! By the way does anyone know where Kent ended up, he taught me to race sailboats and I’d love to find him!!! Good story about A very cold night, a bottle of brandy, and our friend Teresa falling off the boat!!
    Great memories!

  14. Jim Allen

    It was my distinct pleasure to have grown up with Gary. We went to school together and even tried to start up a band. Gary had all the talent. I had none. But I did have a Gibson Les Paul Jr. that Gary was very jealous of. He admitted that to me in a club in Oklahoma City many years later. His dad walked into the garage one day and listened to us “practice”. Gary was great, I stunk. I could see it in his eyes. Gary, I mean Speedy Jr. drop me a line. F9bikr@comcast.net

  15. fan of speedy

    speedy sr…what a pioneer…amazingly, talented guy…even ran the tulsa, ok distribution center for leo fender!!!
    speedy jr is definitely a legend as well…sad to say that he has RECENTLY been diagnosed with cancer…sad time for the music world and oklahoma city in particular…keep speedy in your prayers guys!!!

  16. Tauni

    My name is Tauni, Speedy West’s daughter and Gary Speedy West Jr.’s sister. I appreciate everyone who has responded to my father’s passing and the recent diagnosis of my brother’s cancer. Your prayers are deeply appreciated. I saw the posting from Graciela Venera in Argentina but have no idea how to get in touch with her. If anyone has a suggestion, maybe you could post it here. I know she would like an update on my mother and brother. Again, thank you for your thoughts, prayers, and the wonderful comments. It means so much to me!!!

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