Steel Guitar Legend Kayton Roberts Dead at 83
Legendary steel guitarist Kayton Roberts has died. Roberts played for a host of country icons like Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Randy Travis and Alison Krauss, and he also served as a longtime member of Canadian country legend Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys. He was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2012.
He died on July 13 at the age of 83.
Roberts played steel on Krauss’ “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” Aaron Tippin’s “You’ve Got to Stand for Something” and several albums from Riders in the Sky and Hank Williams III. Services celebrating Roberts’ life will be held at the Church at Grace Park in White House, Tenn., on July 23.
The skilled musician was drawn to Snow because of his steel player. After learning to emulate that style, he joined Snow’s band in 1967 as a rhythm player before eventually transitioning to a pedal-less steel in 1968.
“When I was young, I was fascinated by ‘Big’ Joe Talbot. He was the [steel guitar] sound that made Hank Snow,” he said in an interview with Steel Guitar World in 1992 (quote via CMT). “Little did I know that those early fascinations would someday be my bread and butter. Joe Talbot has been one of my all-time heroes. Really and truly, the job I hold today is because of his style, and the fact that I could play his style.”
He stayed in the Rainbow Ranch Boys until Snow’s death in 1999, performing regularly at the Grand Ole Opry. According to the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame citation, the Florida native’s signature sound was "smooth bar slants, singing, harmonics and Hawaiian bird calls" on his 1951 Fender custom.
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