Al Briscoe

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Al Brisco is one of the leading players of the steel guitar in Canada, where he has been dubbed the ambassador of the steel guitar. In the U.S., his skill has drawn rave reviews from musicians such as…
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Al Brisco is one of the leading players of the steel guitar in Canada, where he has been dubbed the ambassador of the steel guitar. In the U.S., his skill has drawn rave reviews from musicians such as Nashville's Lloyd Green, a premier session Dobro player and steel guitarist. He has received several honors, including a 1999 Porcupine Award, which is conferred for contributions to the preservation of Canadian folk music. In 1994, the Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame inducted him as a member. Brisco developed an interest in music early in life. He studied piano for five years and dabbled on the acoustic guitar before joining a series of country bands in his mid-teens. Before Ambassador Records issued the steel guitarist's album of instrumentals, titled Pickin' Up the Dust, he recorded or played with a variety of artists. Among them were Pure Prairie League, Tommy Hunter, George Hamilton IV, Sons of the Saddle, and Carroll Baker. During one of his youthful forays into country music with a group called the Countrymen, Brisco stepped in to play steel guitar. First, however, he had to make one from scratch because none were available in the region. He tackled the task by modeling the instrument on a photo of a steel guitar that he found on an album by Pete Drake, but tuning it was difficult. Brisco later bought a Fender 400 model. After graduating from high school, he embarked on a career in music. In 1966, Brisco switched from the Fender to a Sho-Bud. By the end of the decade, he started to work as a session musician, and in 1970 he appeared on the Dick Damron single "Countryfied." He went on to record with Johnny Burke, Gary Buck, and Ian & Sylvia Tyson, among others. He also played live, touring with artists such as Buck, Honey West, and Grant Carson. Beginning in 1972, he devoted four years to Ronnie Hawkins as bandleader. During that time he also played his steel guitar to back Kris Kristofferson, Frank Zappa, and others. By 1976, Brisco hooked up with country band Johnny Burke & Eastwind. The following year the group scored a number one hit with "Wild Honey." The group earned the title of Top Country Act from RPM magazine and frequently appeared on the syndicated radio program Opry North. Brisco helped establish the Steel Guitar Club of Canada in 1979.