In 1997, Arhoolie Records released its first disc of Sacred Steel music, a gospel tradition with deep roots in the African American holiness churches of the House of God, Keith and Jewell Dominions. The label went on to release 10 albums of the uniquely powerful spiritual tradition. The music and musicians went all around the world. This week we will take you into the Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive, a 30 year collection of interviews, performances and films about the Sacred Steel.

Aubrey Ghent’s peers universally acknowledge him as a master of the six-string lap-steel guitar. This interview, recorded in November 1992, documented Robert Stone’s first meeting with a musician who played in what would become known as the “sacred steel” tradition. Congregants say he is triple-blessed: a talented and stirring preacher and powerful baritone singer in addition to a superlative, soulful steel guitarist. Aubrey is an amazing player who knows the history of the tradition and you can hear him share his recollections about Willie Eason and the start of it all in the 1930’s.

The Sacred Steel tradition starts working with children at a young age and takes them through a number of instrumental progressions before a player is called to the steel guitar. The Arhoolie Foundation, in cooperation with the Documentary Arts Foundation, produced the Sacred Steel film under the direction of Robert Stone. Sacred Steel shows the development and use of the steel guitar in assisting the services and leading the “praise music” in the House Of God denomination of these Holiness-Pentecostal churches. Featuring the Campbell Brothers with Katie Jackson, Elder Maurice “Ted” Beard, Calvin Cooke, Willie Eason, Elder Aubrey Ghent, Rev. Glenn Lee, the Lee Boys, Robert Randolph, historic footage of Henry Nelson. Watch the movie for free on our website.

Walk With Me

The Campbell Brothers recorded more albums with Arhoolie than any other Sacred Steel group. Extraordinarily talented musicians, the Campbell Brothers travelled the world, sharing this powerful music. From the Chris Strachwitz Video Collection, the Arhoolie Foundation Presents a never-before-seen performance in the KPFA radio studios.

Brothers Alvin, Glenn, Keith and Derrick were the driving force of the church band at the House of God church in Perrine, about fifteen miles south of Miami, Florida. The Perrine House of God developed a national reputation for featuring some of the most exciting and innovative music among House of God churches. Alvin Lee absorbed musical influences from master sacred steel guitarists such as Lorenzo Harrison, Ted Beard, Calvin Cooke, Henry Nelson and Chuck Campbell and added elements of rock, blues and country to create a new sound. Listen to him describe the great “jams” of Calvin Cooke.