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Dec. 12: A hot instrumental solo can turn a good song into a great record. But to me, it’s what a musician does in support of the vocalist that separates the true pickers from the pretenders. Guitarist Reggie Young fits the bill on this, a No. 1 single for George Strait in 1984. Listen for his absolutely tasty backup work on the verse that comes out of the steel guitar break.

That’s not to say Young isn’t a fine soloist. Examples include “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” by Merle Haggard, and “I Can Help,” the Billy Swan hit from the ’70s with that distinctive descending guitar lick. But for an appreciation of his whole-song value, seek out Elvis Presley’s Memphis sessions from 1969. “Suspicious Minds” … “Rubberneckin’ ” … “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.” Great stuff, made better by the guitar of Reggie Young.

Today’s his 73rd birthday. Learn more about his career here.