Harrison County

From Hank Williams to Charley Pride, pedal steel experts bring the country and western to Gulfport

They’ve played with the likes of Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Charley Pride, but on Friday and Saturday, they were playing at the VFW Post 4526.

The Deep South Pedal Guitar South Show kicked off Friday night with some of the biggest names in the world of pedal steel guitar — names like Rockabilly Hall of Fame member Jerry Jaye, Joe Wright, Dave Easley and Bill Stafford Sr.

Gulfport’s own

Stafford was “born and raised in Gulfport.” He said his passion for the pedal steel started when he was a child.

“We lived in a community in Gulfport called Eppico, it was by Courthose Road,” Stafford said. “”There were five of us and one day I heard the most beautiful sound coming from our house and it was a man selling Hawaiian guitar lessons and I fell in love with that sound and I’ve been trying to learn how to play it all my life.”

Stafford said he used to play with a young man at popular Biloxi night club.

“We used to play with Hank Williams when he would come to Biloxi and play at Sie’s Place, which was Sie Simon’s night club,” he said. “We would have a big time and Sie would cook up big pots of boiled shrimp and we’d keep playing after the doors were shut.”

His music was also featured on the soundtrack of the Gus Van Sant film “My Own Private Idaho.”

“Keanu Reeves was in the movie and he’s a really good guitar player,” Stafford said.

Stafford is the organizer of the two-day festival, which includes members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabily Hall of Fame.

“One of the best is Joe Wright, who’s playing Saturday at 4:30,” Stafford said. “He played with Charley Pride for years, but after the shows, more people wanted his autographs than Charley Pride’s so Charley’s wife had him fired — that’s a true story.”