Chasing After Our Heroes by Rob Anderlik


“And so Galahad decided that it would be a disgrace to set off on a quest with the other knights. Alone he would enter the dark forest where there was no path. This is the myth of the Hero’s Journey” – Joseph Campbell

Every musician has a story to tell which usually starts by being inspired by one of their musical heroes. Heroes play an incredibly important role in our own development as musicians – they inspire us to begin our journey and provide us with a treasure trove of musical DNA which leads us on our way. When we’re inspired by our heroes something gets stirred deep within our souls. We stand in awe of what we’ve experienced in their music and we see – perhaps for the first time – a glimmer of those possibilities within ourselves. Part of what inspires us about our heroes is their uniqueness. The greatest musicians are completely authentic in every detail, with their own catalog of tunes, unique tone and signature licks. And while we may appreciate the skills of musicians who can imitate others  – even with virtuosity – we are rarely inspired by them.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you really are” – C.J. Jung

Dobro superstar Rob Ickes – “As far as the evolution of it when I started my goal was to sound like Mike Auldridge; that was all I wanted to do. And then I got into Jerry Douglas, Josh Graves and Brother Oswald, those are my four main influences. As I got older I listed to those guys so much, absorbed a lot of it and started to wonder, “what do I sound like?” It felt funny to play a Jerry Douglas lick. I felt like I was stealing every time I played an Auldridge lick or Josh Graves and I really got curious about “what do I sound like” or “how would I play this.” And it helped me to make that switch. A lot of people don’t do it. They might get to where they can play like Jerry and they stop right there. That’s o.k. but I was always curious about what I sounded like and it’s been a continual search.”

Imagine all of the incredible music the dobro world would be missing if Rob Ickes had played if safe. After all, he was one of the best and brightest dobro players to come along in a long time. More importantly, what happens if we decide to play it safe and never begin the search for things of our own? Dobro/guitarist David Hamburger put it this way

“I once asked Gatemouth Brown when you should start working on having your own style, and without batting an eye he said, “as soon as you’ve got the basics down.” Now, what it means to have “the basics down” is kind of open ended, and of course one really good way to learn is to figure out how the musicians you love are making the sounds you want to be able to make on the instrument. But how is only half of the equation; the other half is why. You can never own someone else’s why, you have to come up with your own. If you just learn to play like other people, you’ll always only have half the picture. What do you want to play? What do you think it should sound like? What’s your personality, and how is it going to come out on the instrument? Once you start to get a handle on that, you’ll have something all your own, and that’s the bedrock every musician ultimately needs to find.”

“Every generation stands on the shoulders of the previous one” – Tim O’Brien 

Developing basic skills, learning your musical ABC’s is an important first step in our development as musicians, but hopefully there comes a time where we step out of the well worn paths provided by our hero’s and begin to search for things of our own. You may just discover pure gold in the form of your own music and musical expression.

Rob Anderlik is a professional musician specializing in dobro and Weissenborn guitar. He is an active member of the music scene in Chicago and a frequent collaborator with players in a variety of musical genres and maintains an active schedule of gigs and studio projects. He can be found on the web at

The Courage to Create by Rob Anderlik


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt 

One of the most incredible features of music is how it can break down walls and bring people together. Everyone loves music. We’re wired for it. Music is true soul food and as musicians we experience this in some truly profound ways. Yet in order to develop to our full potential as musicians, eventually we need to get in the arena, put our music out there and allow ourselves to be seen and heard. For some folks getting in the arena may mean playing an original song in front of family and friends, for others it may mean learning a tune and posting it on YouTube for the first time. Maybe for you it means going to your first jam session or trying out for a band. Taking those first steps can seem a little daunting, but you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The world needs to hear your music and you need the feedback in order to develop to your full potential. Deep in our hearts we know that even our best performance has at least some imperfections. But the goal of creating music and sharing music with others isn’t about perfection. At it’s best it’s about connecting with others and expressing yourself through an incredibly powerful art form. Remember that beautiful music isn’t necessarily difficult to play.  Whether you are just getting started or have been playing for many years I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and get into the arena.

Rob Anderlik is a professional musician specializing in dobro and Weissenborn guitar. He is an active member of the music scene in Chicago and a frequent collaborator with players in a variety of musical genres and maintains an active schedule of gigs and studio projects.  He can be found on the web at

Lessons from other instruments by Andy Volk

Andy Volk

We lap Steelers are an insular bunch. We tend to listen to and refer to other lap steel players. Sometimes we forget that the lap steel is a musical instrument! By that, I mean you can play anything you want on steel and there is a lot of cool stuff to be learned from master players on OTHER instruments.

Here are two terrific free downloadable resources …
The late jazz guitarist and teacher Ted Greene’s legacy site has a lifetime worth of free study material plus these audio recordings of performances and recorded lessons with his students. You have to do some work to write down concepts from these free-ranging taped discussions but there are real gems to be had.

Mandolin virtuoso Kenneth “Jethro” Burns passed away in 1989, but we can still learn from him through these recordings from his students, Jim Nikora and Mike O’Connell. Rob Coleman graciously shares their audio lesson recordings here:

Andy Volk is an award-winning Boston-based television producer/director, writer, designer and musician. He’s the author of the books Guitar Dreams, Lap Steel Guitar (Centerstream/Hal Leonard), and Slide Rules and co-author (with John McGann) of Joaquin Murphey: Classic Western Swing Steel Guitar Solos. Volk is a also contributing writer to The Fretboard Journal and Acoustic Guitar as well as various online venues.

Mike Auldridge – Learning and Teaching by Howard Parker


Howard Parker

Rob has invited me to think out loud a bit about Mike Auldridge. That’s not difficult for me as my love affair with Mike goes back to the mid 70’s, even before the fateful decision to take dobro lessons.


I came to know Mike as a legend, a teacher, a businessman and later a friend. To this day I can’t pick up a reso or sit behind a steel without thinking about him. What I do today is clearly his “fault”. I had no choice.

A lot is known about Mike. His playing career was spectacular even though he made a lot of music that isn’t widely known today. That’s a subject for another time. I think today I’d like to touch on several aspects of Mike that while acknowledged may not be widely discussed, his openness to new ideas and his willingness to pass it along to the next generation.

I call it “Learning and Teaching”:

Learning – For many Mike’s name evokes images and sounds of the original Seldom Scene or those classic solo albums of the 1970’s. For those willing to dig a littler deeper there awaits the discovery of Mike’s earliest recordings with Cliff Waldron and The New Shades of Grass and the later works with Chesapeake, Auldridge, Bennet and Gaudreau, The Legends of The Potomac and dozens of solo artists, known and obscure.

05-12-2006 12;01;55AM

Listening to the Emerson and Waldron (Fox On The Run )(later Cliff Waldron and The New Shades of Grass) recordings can be a huge surprise. On my first listen I had to double check the liner notes. That couldn’t have been Mike. It must have been Josh Graves. Nope, it was Mike.

Emerson and Waldron 1

How did Mike “become Mike” of the Scene years? He and I had several conversations and he shared where he tried to be like Josh but it was forced and uncomfortable. It wasn’t until he allowed himself to be influenced by his environment and other players with similar interests that he began to bring the dobro “uptown”. “Wait A Minute” Seldom Scene live TV

Awards Mike and Buck Graves 1969 @ 300 dpi

Mike’s melodic lines began to sound less banjo like and more steel guitar and horn influenced. His phrasing got longer and more melodic over the decades. He was playing fewer notes and leaving longer spaces. His love of country and big band music found its way into his style. I’d like to think that folks like Buddy Charleton (Mike’s steel teacher) and Duke Ellington had a huge impact on what eventually became the classic Auldridge sound.


Mike continued to be open to new sounds, music and influences over the decades. A move to larger bodied guitars gave him a larger voice. He took full advantage of the technology of the day and his reso began to “rock out” in the later Scene work.

Awards Mike 300promo shot

I’m personally a huge fan of Mike’s post Scene output. You could get a sense of what was to come if you owned a copy of the little known “Auldridge, Reid and Coleman”. None the less, it was a shock when Chesapeake emerged and unleashed their sound on an unsuspecting cadre of fans. Chesapeake Always On A Mountain Mike and the band had turned a corner and there was no returning. On those recordings you might hear typical rock guitar technique and phrasing.



Mike returned to the acoustic ensemble with Auldridge, Bennett and Gaudreau Auldridge, Bennett and Gaudreau (w/ guest Tony Rice) and although bluegrass Mike’s style continued to evolve with fewer notes and more “breathing space”. He could be out front and center without spraying notes like a machine gunner.

Mike retired from public performance during his tenure with “The Legends of The Potomac” Stompin at The Savoy Legends of The Potomac a contemporary band in full bluegrass mode. His style was fluid and melodic with a bit of “bite” when it suited him. He was at the top of his game.

Dobro Trio 2 DSC_9342

Two short anecdotes:

  1. A short road trip listening to satellite radio and Mike hears a dobro solo. He immediately pulls over, listens and says “I gotta call Randy Kohrs and ask him how he did that.”
  2. After a rehearsal for a “Three Bells” track Mike tells me how much better Rob Ickes knows the neck then him and hopes that he can get a few tips about how Rob approaches the neck.

The man was always listening, absorbing, asking questions and learning.

Hallie 2

Teaching – In my mind the thing that made Mike absolutely legendary and what set him apart from other top players was his willingness to pass along everything that he knew to whoever expressed an interest and an aptitude for work.

Mike might have been the first player to offer a series of written and video instruction material. He was an astute businessman and understood the need.

Mike went one step further by offering personal instruction at his home. Legions of the known and unknown made the pilgrimage to Mike’s basement. You’d be sitting knee to knee with the man as he’d demonstrate the lesson of the moment and gently prod you with “ok, now you try”.

His ability to explain. His gentle approach. His empathy. All of these things made him an extraordinary teacher.

Mike knew beginners. He loved to teach the correct basics so he wouldn’t have to undo a bad habit. He wanted students who couldn’t tune a reso. He’d teach them the correct way.

I tell players that learning reso from Mike was like learning rock from Elvis. Hundreds of players from all over the globe seem to agree.

Heck, Mike had a published phone number. Before my first lesson I stared at the number for weeks before calling. Once I did the phone rang and a voice said “Hi, this is Mike”.

He was seemingly happy that I called. I was stammering but managed to schedule a lesson.

Weeks later at our first meeting he asked me to play something. His reaction was (yes, I still have the cassette) “Hey man, I don’t want to discourage you but you’re doing it all wrong.”

It was all uphill from there.
Mike at his best, chatting, demonstrating and having a good time.

Howard Parker plays music professionally in the mid-Atlantic region. He credits a late 70’s radio broadcast of the Mike Auldridge solo in “Keep Me From Blowing Away” for his decades long obsession with the resonator guitar. In 1997 Howard formed resoguit-L, the email discussion group for lap style resonators and the website. Howard joined Beard Guitars in 2004 as the “beardbizguy”, the company’s business administrator. He retired from the day to day operations in 2012 to pursue performance opportunities. He maintains his relationship with Paul Beard and company as a “special projects” guy.