LUCK IS ON HIS SIDE
Words by Tamma Hicks, STEAM Magazine; Adapted Introduction by Terri Hendrix
Lloyd Wayne Maines was the first of five kids Edith and James Maines would bring into the flat, dusty, windy little world of Lubbock, Texas. From tot to teen, Lloyd spent many an afternoon listening to the honky-tonk music of his Dad's band, The Maines Brothers, and the inspirational pedal steel guitar playing of Frank Carter, Wally Moyers Sr. and Bob Stuffelbeme. It was Bob, in fact, who crafted Lloyd's first pedal steel and nurtured his interest in the instrument. At the age of 14, while most teenage boys were pulling the wings off flies, Lloyd and his brothers played their first gig at the VFW hall in Slaton, Texas. Following in the footsteps of their father, they called themselves The Maines Brothers.
In the early '70s, Lloyd met Joe Ely. Having heard Joe with The Flatlanders, Lloyd agreed to aid him in his musical quest to play just enough weekly band gigs, and earn just enough money at the Main Street Saloon, to get Joe a ticket out of Lubbock. Thus began the launch of the infamous Joe Ely Band, and with it, Lloyd's ticket out of Lubbock, too. From their legendary shows at The Cotton Club, perched on the outskirts of the Lubbock skyline, to packed, sweaty punk clubs in England, the Joe Ely Band won fans around the world - including the famed British punk band The Clash, who invited the Lubbock boys to tour with them. As Joe's following spread across the continent and across the sea, so did Lloyd's reputation as a steel guitarist to be reckoned with. With plenty of star-struck musicians ready to roll tape at Caldwell Studios, Lloyd quit touring steadily with Joe Ely in 1980 to focus more on his family and his production abilities. Around the same time, things started to take off with The Maines Brothers Band, but they were all married and had kids, so as a rule, they made an effort not to be on the road away from their families for any longer than 10 days at a time. Eventually, after building up a monstrous fan base with a good run of sold-out shows and considerable radio success, The Maines Brothers traded in their tour bus keys for different occupations, and Lloyd returned as fast as he could back into the studio.
STEAM The first time I can recall hearing your name was in our interview with Joe Ely.
LM Yeah, I heard him with the Flatlanders in about 1970 and then Joe put the Joe Ely Band together. I played and toured with Joe all through the 70s and 80s including on all the records with him; in fact I still play with him from time to time. Joe is just incomparable; he’s one of the best singer-songwriters out there. He’s in his late 60s and still burns it down. He’s just incredible.
You know a lot of people look at Joe as country, but to me he’s not solid country, he’s not solid rock; he’s got his own thing going and it’s really hard to describe. In fact we did several records for MCA in the 70s and 80s and they liked him and his music a lot, but they had a hard time finding a category for him. It was too country for rock and to rock for country, so Joe’s was probably one of the first Americana style music before Americana came into play.
STEAM As I was reading up and figuring out what to talk to you about and my jaw just kept hitting the floor as I was finding out about you! And I’ve just got to say… You’re pretty cool!
LM Yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to work with really good people and did some really great music over the years. I just consider myself really lucky.
STEAM I wouldn’t consider you as much lucky as I would extremely talented and the fact that people search you out is a testament to your abilities. You know as I was looking information up for this, I realized that you, like many well-know people, have probably done hundreds of interviews and that I’ll probably ask the same questions everyone else does, so I have a silly question for you – do you ever get star struck?
LM No, not really. I’m really good at keeping everything in perspective. I’ve never been one to think of anyone as more important than anyone else. Then again, there have been people that have called that I couldn’t believe that were actually calling.
STEAM You are best known for your steel guitar playing although you play other instruments just as well. Was that your first instrument?
LM Actually, the first instrument I learned to play was acoustic guitar and then I got myself an electric guitar and experimented with that for a while. A guy in my dad’s band, Bob Stuffelbeme, had been building his own pedal steel that he’d given up on and gave to me when I was 17, but he had gotten it to the point that it would play and I just picked it up on my own. This was in the late 60s and back in those days nobody taught pedal steel and the only way I could learn was by watching other players and asking questions. If you play guitar already, you can apply some guitar theory to the pedal steel; it’s definitely a different instrument, so I figured a lot out on my own and, like I said, by watching other people. Anytime Willie Nelson came to town I’d go sit on the side of the stage where Jimmy Day, his steel player, was and watched every move he made. So, that’s why I think people say I have my own style; it comes from never having lessons. I mean now there’s YouTube where you can take lessons on everything, but back then there really was no outlet to learn pedal steel.
STEAM To me pedal steel is an art in itself. In the sense that you’ve got hands and feet doing different things while your mind is concentrating on the song you just finished, the one you’re playing, and the one that’s coming up, much like a drummer.
LM It’s really fun to play and it’s a challenge just to keep it in tune; there are so many working parts that can be variables. It’s like anything else you have to practice and you have to keep your chops up.
STEAM It seems to be one of those instruments that people are not looking to learn as much as they were say 30 years ago.
LM Yeah, I think a lot of people will get one and start to learn before realizing how much time it takes to get it under control and they give up. But you’re right, a lot of the great, accomplished steel players are getting up in years and passing away and there really aren’t enough young guys to fill the slots.
STEAM In 2013 in connection with the Austin City Limits anniversary the mayor of Austin proclaimed May 16th as Lloyd Maines Day and ACL did a tribute show to you because you have been on that show more times and anyone else. We have talked with quite a few of the people that got up on that stage with you and I can’t image how amazing that night must have been. You have some great friends!
LM Oh yeah, totally. I have worked with so many great people and am still good friends with all of them. It really was a great night. We did another one back in June for ACL’s 40th Anniversary and I was lucky enough to be inducted in to their Hall of Fame. I got some good kudos two years in a row which is more than I thought I deserved, but I wasn’t going to turn it down. (laughing) ACL asked me to put the house band together for that show. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.
STEAM Yep, we did. We were flipping channels and we stopped and said, “Isn’t that Lloyd Maines?”
LM It was a phenomenal show! We got to back up Bonnie Raitt, Jeff bridges, Sheryl Crow, Kris Kristofferson, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen; it was just an amazing night!
STEAM I’m going to switch here to your Grammy Award for the Dixie Chicks.
LM Yeah, that was their third album, Home, and they received five nominations that year. They won Country Album of the Year and as the producer I got one too. They asked me to perform with them, and of course I would have gone anyway, but it was really fun and great being there. One of the songs on that record, Little Jack Slade, was up for Country Instrumental of the Year; it was co-written by Terri Hendrix, so she went to New York too. Terri, my wife, and I sat in the second row, right next to Norah Jones and behind Aretha Franklin.
STEAM OK, see right there! I would have been star struck!
LM Oh yeah, it was pretty amazing being in and amongst those great artist that you have heard of for so many years.
STEAM Do you know how many albums you have either recorded on or produced?
LM Well, I tried to put a pencil to it one time and there is really no way of getting a completely accurate count, but I started recording in 1971 or 72 and many of those early albums were from bands around Lubbock that no one can probably remember. I’ve done records with Terry Allen, Terri Hendrix, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, of course the Dixie Chicks, and just so many more. But I believe that I have either played on or produced about 4,000 albums. It’s because I’ve just stayed so busy.
STEAM Wow! Busy is a good way to put it!
LM One reason I have added so much to that number in the last few years is because of digital recording; people from all over the country send me songs and I’ll put pedal steel on it, right here in my home studio, and I’ll send .wav files back to them to be incorporated into their masters. Sometimes I’ll do 10 to 15 songs a week just like that from my house. I love over-dubbing long distance like that.
I just finished Robert Earl Keen’s upcoming record, Happy Prisoner: the Bluegrass Sessions (February 2015). We took a year and recorded 26 songs then he narrowed it down to this release, but I think all of the tracks will get used in one way or the other. Terri Hendrix has three recording projects that we’re working on. I’m also working on Max Stalling’s project and I’m doing a duo project with Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen. Not too long ago I finished up Adam Carroll’s record and I’m starting on a new one with Cory Morrow. Then in February I’ll be working with Dale Watson for his new project.
Every January I tell myself I’m not going to take on as many projects, but artists that I’ve worked with call and I’ve told them all, “As long as I can still hear, I’ll work with you.”
STEAM Do you have a genre preference?
LM I know it sounds like a copout but, I enjoy all of it. Of course there some I don’t go out and buy, like opera, but I think there is a certain amount of goodness in all of it and I enjoy it. My forte is country, country rock, and Americana and I’m more versed in those genres, but music is such a universal language that I’ll tackle anything.
STEAM Being so busy in the studio, when do you have time to fit in touring?
LM Well, you know I am just really good at managing my time.
STEAM Lastly, do you have any advice for people either just starting out or already in the business?
LM Yeah, you know I general don’t give up, but there are two things. First, always be on time. If you tell somebody you’re going to do something, be there on time and do it. And don’t expect it to be easy; don’t feel entitled. You know there is a lot of luck involved, but I have found that the luckier you are the hard you have to work. So don’t go in to this business thinking it’s one big party, because you have to learn the business end of it too. So basically, you have to be consistent with people and don’t feel entitled.
STEAM That’s very good advice and I think it applies to all aspects of life, not just the music side. Thank you.