PETE DRAKE (By Phil Davies)

Born Roddis Franklin Drake, 8 October 1932, Atlanta*, Georgia.

Died 29 July 1988, Brentwood near Nashville, Tennessee

The son of a Pentecostal minister, Drake began his career with his siblings in the Drake Brothers band. His bother Jack went on to join Ernest Tubb's Texas Troubadors for 25 years. Inspired by the Opry's steel great Jerry Byrd he saved and bought himself a steel guitar (see later interview link). Drake's melodic steel guitar playing made him one of Atlanta's top young instrumentalists. He joined with future stars Jerry Reed, Doug Kershaw, Roger Miller and Joe South, in a mid-'50s band. Although this group failed to record, it provided Drake with the impetus to move to Nashville in 1959.

He recorded first for Starday before signing up to the new Mercury based Smash label. He played on many Nashville country/pop sessions for the likes of Don Gibson, The Everly Brothers and Marty Robbins. Pete had a pop Top 30 hit, "Forever" in 1964 (credited to "Pete Drake and his Talking Steel Guitar"), and recorded albums of country covers, his own tunes and experimental styles like his "talking guitar". More often his trademark mellow toned steel guitar was used to strengthen albums by other artists. .He played on many crossover country/pop hits such as Lynn Anderson's (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden, Charlie Rich's Behind Closed Doors, and Tammy Wynette's Stand By Your Man. He became a cult name in the modern rock era by playing on sessions for Bob Dylan ( John Wesley Harding , Nashville Skyline & Self Portrait)), Ringo Starr (Beaucoups Of Blues, produced by Pete) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass)

Far more importantly, he backed Jerry Lee on the Would You Take Another Chance On Me and The Killer Rocks On lp sessions in the early 70s, playing on hits like Me & Bobby McGee and Chantilly Lace. Pete played on many of Jerry's 70s Nashville sessions and was often the session leader. He also played on some forgettable mid 60s Elvis soundtrack albums like Double Trouble, Speedway and Clambake. He would've enjoyed the Fools Fall In Love, Big Boss Man, You Don't Know Me, Singing Tree, Guitar Man/US Male/Too Much Monkey Business sessions more (meeting up with old buddy Jerry Reed) as well as the gospel sessions of the period.

He eventually had his own studio, Pete's Place, and launched his own record label, First Generation, in the late '70s, Drake signed his brother's old boss Ernest Tubb who had left MCA after 35 years, and released an album, The Legend and the Legacy in 1977. Comprised of reworkings of Tubb's greatest hits, the album included guest appearances by country superstars such as Willie & Waylon, Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. This has now been reissued many times on budget labels.

Pete occasionally stepped into the spotlight, releasing solo album of pop-gospel standards,Steel Away and an album of Dylan/Beatles tunes. He died in Nashville on July 29th 1988, aged just 55.

Recommended listening:


lps of the Starday/Smash period

For Pete's Sake cd King

Session work

In particular any of the sessions he played on with stellar SAO era names like Marty Robbins, Don Gibson,Bobby Bare, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, Elvis, Jerry Lee and Ronnie Hawkins (Monument lps) etc etc


Ernest Tubb The Legend & the Legacy sessions

Interview with Pete Drake:

* Some sources give his birthplace as Augusta, Georgia

These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
Yahoo Group "Shakin' All Over". For comments or information
please contact Dik de Heer at

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