Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guitarobit: Ben Keith

Ben Keith, for four decades a vital part of Neil Young's backing team, has died.

Born in Kansas, Keith once landed himself in hospital after too hard, too heavy practice on the steel guitar. The pain was worth it, though, as he quickly became a sought-after session player - that's him on Patsy Cline's I Fall To Pieces.

Working in Nashville paid off for Keith when Young arrived in town to record an album - a series of recommendations led to Keith being co-opted into a backing group, dubbed the Stray Gators. He didn't know who Neil Young was, and yet he was to help Young create Harvest. It was the start of a long association which took Ben through Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and then into a key role supporting Young's solo career.

He also made his own music - although it wasn't until 1984 that he released something under his own name. Keith also turned his hand to production - Jewel's first album was one of his - but never stopped playing live or working as a session player.

Recently, he had been supporting Pegi Young on tour. Neil Young dedicated Old Men - the track which started their association - to Keith during a Monday show in Winnipeg.

73 years old, it's believed Ben Keith suffered a fatal heart attack at Neil Young's ranch at the weekend.