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Speedy West

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Wesley Webb West (January 25, 1924 – November 15, 2003), better known as Speedy West, was an American pedal steel guitarist and record producer. He frequently played with Jimmy Bryant, both in their own duo and as part of the regular Capitol Records backing band for Tennessee Ernie Ford and many others. He also played on Loretta Lynn’s first single.

One of the greatest virtuosos that country music has ever produced, Speedy West bridged the western swing and rockabilly eras with eye-popping steel guitar. Besides contributing to literally thousands of country sessions, West cut many of his own instrumentals, as a solo act and with his guitarist partner Jimmy Bryant. Adept at boogie, blues, and Hawaiian ballads, West played with an infectious joy and daring improvisation that, at its most adventurous, could be downright experimental. It’s doubtful whether anyone could collect all of Speedy’s solos under one roof, but it was his sessions of the 1950s and early ’60s — especially those with Jimmy Bryant — that found his genius at its most freewheeling and dazzling.

He was photographed by Herb Wise; the American photographer who found critical success with his portraits of artists from the 1960s and 1970s.

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