My two-door hatchback squeaked in protest as I loaded the case into the trunk. To close the deal, I handed him a bank envelope stuffed with cash and drove back down the alley.

dating oahu lap steel-31

Silvio himself answered and ushered me through the back hall, past the toilets, file cabinets, and stacks of empty boxes, into the main sales space. “Take a look around.” The space was dimly lit, but I immediately saw what I had come for—in a semi-circle stood five pedal steel guitars, two double-necks and three singles, each a waist-high oblong box on four metal legs topped with what resembled a guitar neck, except there were many more strings. He pulled out his playing bar and shook his National picks out of a black plastic film case and fit them on the thumb and first two fingers of his right hand.

They were made to be noticed, some trimmed in chrome, others with multicolor inlay, boxy bodies varnished to a high shine—vibrant aqua, red-stained curly maple. Silvio hooked up the amp and John sat down and pulled up to the first guitar—a black Emmons double-neck with bright atom-like symbols on the fret board.

Out of the muddy dissonance of all those strings sounding at once there emerged a satisfying I-IV-I chord change.

“It’s a good one—it fits you,” John said, “And you’ll be able to carry it.

I was nervous and almost missed my turn—an alley between Silvio’s Photoworks and a run-down nutrition center.

As instructed, I passed the main store, the front windows dark and secured with safety grilles for the night, and pulled into the rear lot.

The Hawaiian guitar, or lap steel guitar, is an oblong, stringed instrument, usually placed on the knees or on a stool right in front of the player, who uses a steel bar in one hand and either fingerpicks or a plectrum in the other to activate the strings.

It is not the body of the guitar (which is usually made of wood or Formica) that gives the steel guitar its name, but the bar—when moved up and down the metal strings, it gives all steel guitars their signature penetrating wail and whine.

The Hawaiian steel guitar is most commonly believed to have been created by Joseph Kekuku in the late nineteenth century.