Local guitarist still picking after playing for country legend in ‘80s
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
May 8, 2013, 10:02
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Prince George resident Sid Hudson plays at Weston Manor on Sunday.
At the age of 9, Sid Hudson’s father introduced him to something that would mold the rest of his life: a guitar.
The Prince George native would go on to become the lead guitarist for one of the top country acts in the 1980s, Barbara Mandrell.
Hudson began his journey when his father introduced and taught him how to play. The skill came easy to him; he could learn an entire song in five minutes just from being told the chords of the song. His father encouraged him and kept him practicing, which Hudson said helped him to believe he could one day be something.
“I remember him telling me, ‘If you keep on practicing, you could be on the Porter Wagoner Show one day,’” Hudson said. “When he told me that, it dawned on me that it really could be possible.”
“If my father hadn’t spoken those words, I’m confident that I wouldn’t have achieved the level of success that I did,” Hudson said.
Hudson learned as much as possible from every player he met, determined to keep learning. Hudson would hang around one artist, absorb everything he could from them, and would then find another player to learn from. At the age of 19, Hudson met famous jazz player Joe Pass, who took Hudson under his wing to mentor and teach as much as he could.
In 1981, Hudson got a phone call that put him on the move. He relocated to Nashville and began working playing with a studio band called the Nashville Cats. Eventually, he got a call from the Grand Ole Opry and accepted a job playing guitar at the legendary program every Friday and Saturday night. After a couple years at this gig, Hudson had met and impressed a number of musicians in the area, which helped him in getting his next gig.
“When you live and play around Nashville, you eventually meet all the musicians in town, so when someone hears of a gig opening up, names get brought up and mine was brought up when Mandrell was looking,” Hudson said.
In 1984, Hudson was asked to be the lead guitarist for Barbara Mandrell. At this gig, Hudson said literally all he had to do was show up and play music.
“I played for an hour and ten minutes every night,” Hudson said. “I had my own crew, who set up everything, changed strings. I just had to get dressed and walk on stage.”
Hudson toured with Mandrell until February of 1988. Hudson decided to leave the band and retire from music in order to focus on his marriage, as well as his growing family.
“I decided it was time to quit because it’s really hard to have a successful marriage and family and be gone six to eight months a year,” Hudson said.
Hudson’s first daughter was born in May of 1987, and was followed by two more daughters in the years after.
After returning to Prince George, Hudson and his father started Hudson Properties, a successful real estate company. Every week, Hudson and his father will sit down on Tuesday afternoons and play music together.
Hudson also created Live Steel Strings, a company run by his wife.
Hudson began to play pedal steel guitar around the age of 18, mostly as a hobby. He learned bits and pieces of how to play the instrument from steel guitar musicians while on the road. His wife approached him at one point wanting to start a business, and asked him for ideas.
Hudson brainstormed and involved his love of music when coming up with a plan.
An important issue Hudson explained about the steel guitar is that it falls out of tune so easily. Most strings used on steel guitars are regular guitar strings, which are not designed for steel guitars, but for regular ones. Hudson began to brainstorm a way to design a string specifically made for steel guitars, which would fix the tuning problem. Eventually came up with a new design for the strings so that they would stay in tune.
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Hudson, left, plays with the jazz fusion band Bop Nation at Weston Manor for the Sounds of Summer concert series.
“I have a real good understanding of the instrument, and the pros and cons of the instrument, which helped me to design these strings specifically for this instrument,” Hudson said.
The strings are now sold worldwide.
Currently, Hudson does very few performances a year, mainly hosting guitar seminars and attending conventions around the country. He still plays every Tuesday afternoon with his father and three others. On Sunday, Hudson joined Keith Horne and a jazz fusion group, which he sometimes fills in for, at Weston Manor in Hopewell to kick off the fourth Sounds of Summer series, hosted by the Historic Hopewell Foundation.