Lloyd Maines showing how pedal steel is done on Joe Ely’s “Down on the Drag”
If you only know Lloyd Maines as father of “Chick” Natalie Maines of Dixie Chicks, you’re missing out. Lloyd Maines is a steel guitarist and producer who’s been around the block, working with names such as Joe Ely, Guy Clark, and even Wilco.
Lloyd lists legendary steel guitarist Jimmy Day as one of his greatest influences. In his heyday, Jimmy Day seemed to be everywhere. Name a classic song and chances are, Jimmy played on it. Name a classic country artist and chances are Jimmy played with them- Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Willie Nelson and even Elvis. Jimmy Day was virtually everywhere.
Same thing can be said of Lloyd. From his first tracks on Joe Ely’s 1977 self titled album, which established him as one of Texas’ elite musicians, he’s appeared on countless projects working with artists from Ely, Terry Allen, Butch Hancock, Guy Clark, Radney Foster to the Dixie Chicks, Ted Roddy, Bruce Robison to popping up in surprising places, on David Byrne, Uncle Tupelo and Wilco projects.
These days though, Lloyd’s jaw dropping steel riffs are only half the reason he’s become one of the most sought after men in music. He’s also been a record producer for a little over two decades. “When I first started working in the studio in Lubbock, I started as a studio player, a musician on several local projects around there, and I just got interested in being able to capture music on a format that was going to be around forever. I still enjoy playing live, but there’s just something about documenting music for listeners in the hereafter that really appealed to me. I just kind of developed a real love for it over the years, helping people get the most out of their music.” Lloyd produced his first album just a year after he cut those first tracks on the Joe Ely album. That album happens to be the now seminal Terry Allen album, “Lubbock (On Everything)”. Terry was so impressed with Lloyd’s work, he kept him on retainer for his next 6 discs.
Things snowballed from there, and Lloyd soon found himself producing for Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Andy Wilkenson, The Texana Dames, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Lost Gonzo Band, Jimmy Collins, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Chris Wall, Richard Buckner, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Wayne Hancock, Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, The Great Divide, Larry Joe Taylor…Today, you’ll be hard pressed to pick up a CD that comes out of Texas that Lloyd doesn’t have a hand in, either producing/co-producing, playing on, and many times both. Cory Morrow, Kevin Deal, Roger Creager, Charlie Robison, Owen Temple, Mark David Manders, the list goes on and on.
In-between juggling his time as a studio musician and producer, Lloyd was also working with brothers Kenny, Donnie and Steve as The Maines Brothers. They put out 8 albums, produced by Lloyd, between 1978 and 1991, one of which landed on the Mercury/Polygram label.
What is it that Lloyd Maines has as a producer, that has made him so highly sought after? A love for what he does, and an honest, passionate approach to his work, in which he holds the belief that he should mold his production efforts to fit the artist, that the artist should never be molded to fit the producer. As Lloyd tells it:
I just try to make the artist feel comfortable, and get the absolute best performance out of everybody I work with. To do that, there’s a little psychology involved — you have to make them feel good about what they’re doing. But as far as any magical techniques, I don’t think I’ve got any. I go into every project without any kind of preconceived notion of how I want to do it. I try to mold my production around the artist. A lot of it is kind of getting into the emotions of the band. The worst thing you can do is to get a band uptight, and I tell you, I never, I never talk down to an artist or musician, ’cause you know, being on both sides of the glass, I try to treat people like I want to be treated. If somebody’s having trouble with a part, a vocalist having trouble with his vocals or whatever, the worst thing you can do is to get them uptight about it. You have to use a lot of psychology, reverse psychology, and you have to value the feelings of the people you’re working with.
It seems the prolific Lloyd Maines, doesn’t waste a single second of his waking hours, he’s virtually everywhere.
A full list of Lloyd Maine’s music credits can be found here.
And last but not least, a couple more Lloyd videos for your enjoyment: