In 1943, Harold “Shot” Jackson began playing the steel guitar on the Grand Ole Opry with such legends as Johnny and Jack and the Queen of Country Music, Kitty Wells. He eventually landed his dream job, playing dobro with Roy Acuff (the King of Country Music.) In addition to touring, he was a recording artist and producer and played with Roy Clark and the Clark Family on the popular “Hee-Haw” television series.
In the early 1950’s, Shot began installing string pullers with pedals on Fenders, Rickenbackers, and other steel guitars. In 1955 he invited Buddy Emmons to join him and they started “Sho-Bud”, the first manufacturer of pedal steel guitars. Buddy would go on to build his own line of steels while Shot’s creations continued.
In 1963, Shot’s sons, David and Harry, began accompanying him in building Sho-Bud Steel Guitars. In the late 60’s, David developed and patented a new pedal actuated pitch changing device that would become the most replicated string-pulling mechanism in the guitar industry. David operated Music City Manufacturing Co., which is where the majority of Sho-Bud steel guitars were built from 1970 to 1981. Harry built the custom steels while Shot did repairs and new designs on acoustics and dobros upstairs at the Broadway shop in downtown Nashville. He started his own line of dobros called the “Sho-Bro”.
The Sho-Bud pedal steel helped shape the sound of country music from its infancy with its unique tone and pitch changing characteristics, helping to carve out that “Nashville Sound”. The instrument also added interesting musical textures to rock, gospel, pop and jazz, used by acts such as the Beach Boys, Yes, Poco, the Eagles, many Sacred Steel artists and others. In addition to steel guitars, the company produced amplifiers, flat-top guitars, dobros and banjos. Shot built flat-tops for music legends such as George Jones, Ernest Tubb, and Roy Clark, in addition to customizing various guitars for The Opry Stars. Willie Nelson still plays “Trigger”, the classic Martin N-20 Shot installed an electric pick-up on in his early years.
On Saturday nights, Opry stars would make their way through the back door of the Ryman Auditorium, across the alley and into the back door of Sho-Bud to share stories from their weekly travels. This tradition continued until 1981, when Sho-Bud was sold to Baldwin. Many of the employees from the Jackson companies went on to build other pedal steel guitars. In large part, current steel guitar manufacturers are still using the old Sho-Bud designs.
In 1983, Shot Jackson suffered a major stroke, only two months after selling his guitar repair business. He never fully recovered his speech nor his ability to play an instrument. In 1986, he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He suffered another stroke in 1990 and died in 1991.
David and Harry took a break from the guitar business. Twenty years later they returned with fresh ideas, joined by David’s daughter Dawn Jackson (founder of Sho-Bud Music), under the new name Jackson Steel Guitar Company. Together they have taken the original Sho-Bud pedal steel guitar to a higher level of excellence in sound, mechanics and beauty. The Jackson family continues to forge instruments and string pulling components that enable musicians around the world to create sounds otherwise difficult or seemingly impossible to achieve…especially in a live performance. Building on innovative design ideas and over fifty years of experience, Jackson Steel Guitar Company’s core focus is to render The Ultimate Sound™.