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Friday, January 31, 2014

Ben Keith Inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame by Neil Young

Neil Young Dedicates the Hall of Fame Award to Ben Keith in Heaven
Nashville, 1/28/14
Photo by Karen Kraft / The Tennessean
(Click photo to enlarge)

The late, great Ben Keith was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame by Neil Young in Nashville, TN this week.

"Everybody has these big shows for the hood ornament," Neil Young said, referring to other awards shows. "Everybody's cheering for the hood ornament. Don't forget what's under the hood. ... Without that, there's nothing happening but the chrome."

Pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, Neil Young's longtime friend and bandmate died in 2010. They first played music together on Harvest, Young's 1972 album which prominently featured Keith's work on classics such as "Old Man" and "Heart of Gold."

DJ Tyson (Ben Keith's grandson) & Neil Young

From 2014 Inductees Announcement to Musicians Hall Of Fame:
Ben Keith (posthumously) – Known primarily for his work as a pedal steel guitarist with Neil Young, Keith was a fixture of the Nashville country music community in the 1950s and 1960s. He later worked with numerous successful rock, country and pop artists as both a producer and a multi-instrumentalist sideman for over four decades. The very first song Ben recorded as a Nashville session player was Patsy Cline’s timeless standard “I Fall To Pieces.”
Heidi Denning (Ben Keith's daughter) & Neil Young

Ben Keith (March 6, 1937 – July 26, 2010), Neil Young's long time band mate and dear friend, was a multi-talented musician who Neil Young first met in Nashville in February 1971 when Neil was recording the multi-platinum LP Harvest who passed away unexpectedly in 2010.


Ben "Longrain" Keith: 1937 - 2010


Bridge Benefit Concert 2008
Photo by Craig Abaya

Upon learning of Ben's passing, Neil Young issued the following statement:
On the full moon, the Thunder moon, the world lost one of the greatest musicians of all time. Ben was 73 years old the night he died on Broken Arrow Ranch in California, his happy home for the last years of his life. Ben played with Patsy Cline, Faron Young, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Ian Tyson and many other music greats. A great American, the quiet giant, he moved gently through the world, with kindness and grace.

My wife Pegi was lucky to share his last performance a few weeks back in San Francisco, where Ben was playing in her band, supporting her and lending his spirit to her every word as she sang her songs for us.

Of course, in Nashville Ben Keith is legendary, one of the last of the original country greats, the man behind the song. No one will ever fill his shoes. He has countless friends and admirers. They all miss him as much as I do. I will miss him every time I look to my side, remembering him, my brother and fellow traveler.

Thankfully, Ben's masterful playing can be seen and heard in two Johnathon Demme pictures: 'Heart of Gold' and 'Trunk Show,' as well as countless great recordings over the last 50 years. We are so fortunate to have these as memories and lasting documents of his greatness and grace. He started out on a homemade steel guitar he fashioned himself from a piece of wood and left over parts. He loved his music and his life and cherished his many friends and soul mates.

He leaves behind his wonderful daughter Heidi, and his grandchildren who he loved so much, DJ, Rachel, James, Meredith, Aubrey, Fletcher and Caroline.

May he rest in Peace.

Neil Young


Legend has it that Neil asked bassist Tim Drummond if he knew any pedal-steel players in town. Tim contacted Ben, who lived in town and off he went to the studio: "I didn't know who anyone was, so I asked, who's that guy over there?" and was told "that's Neil Young".

"They were already recording [Harvest] at the time," Keith said in the 2005 concert movie Heart of Gold. "I set up my steel and kind of snuck in there and started playing and we did five songs before we ever stopped and introduced ourselves."

Neil Young often referred to Ben Keith as "Brother Ben".


Ben Keith with Faron Young and band (via Rock Town Hall)
Keith's career dated back to playing on Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces."

Rick-Rosas-Ben-Keith-Cutting-Room-NYC-07-19-2007-johnny-marr.jpg
Rick Rosas & Ben Keith @ Cutting Room, NYC, NY 07-19-2007
Photo by Johnny Marr

denver-042709-tony-stack-vert-bow-sm.jpg

Photo gallery by Tony Stack on Rock Steady Studios of Neil Young in Denver, CO on 4/27/09

Keith is also known as the producer of Jewel's debut album Pieces of You, which sold more than ten million units.

From Jewel remembers producer Ben Keith | tennessean.com | The Tennessean:
For Jewel, though, Keith will always be the man who helmed her breakthrough, Pieces Of You, an album that sold more than 10 million copies.

"I was signed to Atlantic Records, completely ignorant about the music business," Jewel said. "I met with maybe 50 different producers, and a lot of them wanted to change what I did. Ben was the first who made me feel comfortable with who and what I was. He had the mentality of, 'Let the musician be the musician,' and he believed in me when I didn't know how to believe in myself."

"He was a champion of the song and the songwriter, no matter what," she said. "He was a defender, and he helped give me confidence. He wanted to pay homage to the song, with no over-singing and no over-playing. He produced that album, and so we both hit the frickin' goldmine.

We were dark horses that beat the odds."
Making Greendale
Ben Keith as "Grandpa" in Greendale as filmed by Neil Young - 2002
(Eric Johnson as "Jed", center)

More on Ben Keith: 1937 - 2010.

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17 Comments:

At 1/31/2014 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Eric Higgins said...

I miss Ben so much. His masterful musicianship, his understated yet majestic style and grace were simply unparallelled. Truly soul personified. I could never begin to narrow down to one or two songs he played upon that are my "favorites", but certainly one that stands out is "War Song" with Stray Gators. His pedal steel just soaring into the cosmos above NY's earth-bound, primitive two-chord skronk-stomp, flying so high above the stratosphere over the B-52s dropping napalm on the peoples of Vietnam and Cambodia. Ben Keith's playing on that one song transforms it from a lyrically clunky tirade into a phenomenon of sadness, pain and hope of transcendence. At least for me it does.

NO MORE WAR

-- Eric in FLA

 
At 1/31/2014 11:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I keep loving Ben's work. He made gave Neil a chance to sound great and he made all the songs so much better. Here's an updated list of albums that you can hear Ben playing on:

1960 – Patsy Cline – I Fall to Pieces
1969 – Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth – Country
1970 – Ringo Starr – Beaucoups of Blues
1970 – Mother Earth – Satisfied
1970 – Tracy Nelson – Satisfied (Tracks 1, 7)
1971 – Bob Dylan – George Jackson (single Tracks 1, 2)
1971 – Tracy Nelson – Bring Me Home (Track 7)

1971 – Steve Goodman – Steve Goodman (Tracks 3-10, 13)
1971 – Tim Hardin – Bird On A Wire
1971 – Mother Earth – Bring Me Home
1971 – Tom Ghent – Yankee’s Rebel Son
1970 – Charlie Daniels –
Charlie Daniels (Tracks 4, 6
)
1972 – Neil Young – Harvest
1972 – Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything?
1972 – Chris Smither – Don’t It Drag On (Tracks 1, 6)
1972 – Hungry Chuck – Hungry Chuck
1972 – Bobby Charles – Bobby Charles (Tracks 7, 9, 12-14)
1972 – Ian & Sylvia/Great Speckled Bird – You Were On My Mind (Only title track available)

1972 – Jake Holmes – How Much Time (Track 2)
1972 – Chris Smither – Don’t It Drag On
1972 – The Fabulous Rhinestones – The Fabulous Rhinestones (Track 9)
1972 – Mark Moogy Klingman – Moogy (Track 5)
1973 – Graham Nash – Wild Tales (Tracks 2, 4, 5, 9, 10)
1973 – Terry Reid – Seed Of Memory (Track 3)
1973 – Neil Young – Time Fades Away
1973 – The Band – Moondog Matinee (Track 6)
1973 – Eric Von Schmidt – 2nd Right, 3rd Row (Tracks 2, 4, 6)
1973 – Anne Murray – Danny’s Song (Tracks 1-5)
1974 – Neil Young – On The Beach
1974 – Bob Neuwirth – Bob Neuwirth (Probably tracks 2, 5, 6, 11)
1974 – Anne Murray – Love Song
1975 – Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (Tracks 2, 4, 7, 8)
1975 – Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night
1975 – Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel (Tracks 6, 7)
1975 – David Crosby / Graham Nash – Wind On Water (Probably tracks 5, 10)
1976 – Paul Butterfield – Put It In Your Ear
1976 – Crosby & Nash – Whistling Down The Wire (Probably track 2)
1977 – Neil Young – American Stars ‘n Bars
1977 – Billy Joe Shaver – Gypsy Boy (Probably all tracks)
1977 – Lonnie Mack – Lonnie Mack and Pismo (Track 4)
1977 – Leon & Mary Russell – Make Love To The Music
1977 – Neil Young – Comes a Time
1978 – Emmylou Harris / Linda Ronstadt / Dolly Parton – Trio 2
1978 – Crazy Horse – Crazy Moon (Track 3)
1979 – Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl (Track 7)
1980 – Neil Young – Hawks and Doves
1980
– Warren Zevon – Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School (Track 11)
1982 – Neil Young – Trans
1983 – Neil Young & The Shocking Pinks – Everybody’s Rockin
1984 – To a Wild Rose (En Pointe)
1985 – Neil Young – Old Ways
1988 – Neil Young – This Note’s For You
1989 – Neil Young – Freedom
1992 – Neil Young – Harvest Moon
1993 – Neil Young – Unplugged
1994 – Ian Tyson – Eighteen Inches Of Rain
1994 – Ben Keith And Friends – Seven Gates: A Christmas Album
1997 – Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vols. 1–3 (rare and unreleased 1961–1991)
1998 – The Simpsons – The Yellow Album
1999 – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Looking Forward
2000 – Neil Young – Silver And Gold
2000 – Neil Young – Road Rocks Volume 1
2005 – Neil Young – Prairie Wind
2007 – Neil Young – Chrome Dreams 2
2007 – Pegi Young – Pegi Young
2008 – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – DejaVu (Live)
2009 – Neil Young – Fork in the Road
2010 – Pegi Young – Foul Deeds
2010 – Pegi Young – Bracing for impact (Track 11)
2011 – Neil Young / International Harvesters – A Treasure
2013 – Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (Track 19)

"Wallflower, wallflower" just Bob and Ben on that last album.

BecauseBenMatters

 
At 1/31/2014 11:48:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@Eric - certainly Ben was a legend among musicians. Not sure how widely he's really known outside that circle?

"War Song" with Stray Gators is certainly a pure Ben & Neil moment. An intense one at that.

@BSM - wow. thanks for sharing this. Quite impressive. His contributions were wider and deeper than we have imagined for sure. And that's just credits. Untold contributions to concert support, certainly.

 
At 1/31/2014 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list. I suspect Mr. Keith is on a ton of stuff from 1960-1968 uncredited. God to meet him in 2007 after a Neil Young show in D.C. A great man.

 
At 1/31/2014 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list. I suspect Mr. Keith is on a ton of stuff from 1960-1968 uncredited. God to meet him in 2007 after a Neil Young show in D.C. A great man.

 
At 1/31/2014 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous Leigh said...

and there's 'Christmas at the Ranch' which is similar to Seven Gares except instead of being an instrumental 'les trois cloches' has vocals by Neil Young with Pegi.

 
At 1/31/2014 12:55:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

I still have that Charlie Daniel's vinyl! What a beautiful tribute and deserving recognition!

 
At 2/01/2014 12:08:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So glad I caught Ben on his final two tours with Neil, both of which were so amazing (on par with, if not better than the NYCH tour).

For old times sake, here is Ben on stage with Neil three years before his passing in one of my favourite all time Neil performances. A 70 year old man has no business being on stage for such a rocking song. RIP.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-muDHxj7G7Q

 
At 2/01/2014 02:46:00 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Thanks for the tribute Thrash, what an amazing musician Ben was. I'm so glad Neil did so much touring with him the last 5 or so years of his life, giving us all a chance to experience his brilliance in person. Listening to him play and sing on Bad Fog and then TTN during the Trunk Show tour is something I'll never forget.

And thank you BecauseBenMatters for that list. I have a lot to track down now!
Do you happen to know where one could find a list of any Faron Young recordings Ben played on, if there is one? Or maybe he just played in his live band? I'm such a fan of late '50s and 60s honky tonk music and it would be a real treat to hear Ben play on some of that.

 
At 2/01/2014 07:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those Nashville years are harder to track down. They should work on that in Nashville ...

But here's a list of Faron Young songs that have Ben Keith on steel guitar:


A LONG TIME AGO - FARON YOUNG
A MOMENT ISN’T VERY - LONG FARON YOUNG
ALMOST - FARON YOUNG
BACKTRACK - FARON YOUNG
BIMBO - FARON YOUNG
BOUQUET OF ROSES - FARON YOUNG
CRAZY ARMS - ERNEST TUBB
DON’T LET THE STARS GET IN YOUR EYES - FARON YOUNG
FOUR WALLS - ERNEST TUBB
HEY GOOD LOOKIN’ - FARON YOUNG
I DON’T HURT ANYMORE - FARON YOUNG
I FALL TO PIECES - PATSY CLINE
I HEAR YOU TALKIN’ - FARON YOUNG
I’LL BE ALRIGHT (IN THE MORNING) - FARON YOUNG
I’LL GO ON ALONE - FARON YOUNG
LAST NIGHT AT A PARTY - FARON YOUNG
LET OLD MOTHER NATURE HAVE HER WAY - FARON YOUNG
MAKING BELIEVE - FARON YOUNG
MOM AND DAD’S WALTZ - FARON YOUNG
RIVERBOAT - FARON YOUNG
SHOES - PATSY CLINE
SLOWLY - FARON YOUNG
THAT’S THE WAY IT’S GOTTA BE - FARON YOUNG

 
At 2/01/2014 10:34:00 AM, Blogger setlistthief said...

To be recognized by your fellows musicians as a master is the ultimate honor. Well deserved.

I often wonder if Neil would've had the career he did without Ben's pedal steel on Harvest. Because of Ben, Neil captured perfectly that "high, lonesome" sound.

Me, I was fortunate enough to see Ben and Neil perform together during the 2007 tour. Long may you run, Long Grain.

 
At 2/01/2014 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Keith said...

Amazing, thank you for the lists!

 
At 2/01/2014 11:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil Young and Ben Keith
For The Turnstiles
Live Jones Beach Theatre, Long Island, NY 1989

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U58wK8urFdY

 
At 2/01/2014 10:20:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Setlisthief, that's an interesting question. I think Neil would have found his way, but Harvest obviously gave him entree on any number of levels, and the pedal steel all by itself damn near made Heart Of Gold and Old Man. Still, if Drummond hadn't "drummed" up Ben, Neil would have found someone else to play it. But Ben obviously became a kindred spirit, which led to him being central to what came after. Would have been at least a little different. Just glad it happened the way it did- a lot of sublime music resulted.

A Friend Of Yours

 
At 2/02/2014 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Loved Ben so much ... seemed like he had the perfect temperament to compliment Neil ... probably the one musician who you could say was a consistent mainstay for Neil for most of his career ... an unsung hero if there ever was one ... those last years with Ben were unforgettable for sure ... still can't forget that summer '89 tour when Neil was solo acoustic with Ben and Frank ... amazing memories of time gone by, RIP Ben, so happy to see you get the much deserved recognition!!!

 
At 2/02/2014 11:14:00 AM, Anonymous Darth Malt said...

I was lucky to see Ben play with Neil on several gigs during the never-ending tour, including the last one in Hyde Park. I can still remember closing my eyes during Words, tilting my head back and just letting the sound wash over me.

 
At 2/02/2014 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan1 said: "... still can't forget that summer '89 tour when Neil was solo acoustic with Ben and Frank ..."

If only the Neils-Archives-Performance-Series-Folks could read this and make up their minds ...

 

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