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March 6: Fans of this blog know how I love the sound of the steel guitar. Well, there aren’t many better steel players than Buddy Charleton, who handled those duties in Ernest Tubb’s great band from 1962 to 1974, and who turns 72 years old today. “Almost To Tulsa” was, in my opinion, the instrumental highlight of the second of three wonderful albums Tubb’s band recorded without the boss in the ’60s. Those albums gave Charleton, guitarist Leon Rhodes, drummer/singer Jack Greene and front man Cal Smith the freedom to stretch their wings beyond the simple, bedrock sounds that Tubb allowed on his own records.

I was exposed to the Troubadours on my father’s well-worn copy of the album Country Dance Time from 1965. Those and other Tubb-less tracks have been hard to find in the CD era. But in 2008, Germany’s Bear Family Records released a collection of all the Troubadours instrumentals. If you like “Almost To Tulsa,” seek out the CD of the same name, catalog number BCD15946, for the finest in hillbilly jazz.

Should I ever turn 3 Chords a Day into a podcast, “Almost To Tulsa” will be the theme song.

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