Joseph Kekuku, father of the steel guitar, was born in La’ie in 1874. Some say the instrument was created by accident when, as a boy, he ran the back of a comb across the strings. However he invented it, he knew he was on to something. In 1904 Joseph left Hawaii as a young man to play around the world, introducing musicians all over to the unique sound of his customized laptop guitar. He died in 1932, but his influence lives on in the music of multiple genres from around the globe.
The steel guitar was perhaps most famously embraced by Nashville, where it became a staple of the classic country sound pumped out by labels like Sun Records, home to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley and many, many more. The instrument’s unique sound provided an essential layer of yearning emotion that can be heard on hundreds of immortal country recordings. But like so many other good things, it started in La’ie, Hawaii’s little town with a big influence.
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