Monday, January 15, 2007

Sneaky Pete Slips Away


Sneaky Pete Kleinow, one of the most influential pedal steel guitar players, lived up to his namesake by quietly passing away on January 6th, with little media attention. As of this writing (1/15), Kleinow's biography at allmusic.com still lists him as alive.
Sneaky Pete's life was truly lived behind the scenes, both musically and later in the special effects work he did for Hollywood. Born in 1934 in Indiana, Kleinow spent the ten years of his life after graduating high school working for the Michigan State Highway Department and presumably playing lots of pedal steel guitar. He moved to Los Angeles in 1963, landing some gigs on the LA club circuit and paying the bills by writing jingles and surprisingly, the theme music to Gumby. In the City of Angels, Sneaky Pete met Gram Parsons, who at the time was still in the Byrds. Parsons asked Sneaky Pete to join him on a new project he was putting together, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Kleinow played on the Burrito Brothers' first three albums and wisely decided to leave only one album after driving force Gram Parsons departed.
After (temporarily) leaving the Burrito Brothers, Sneaky Pete went on to become a sought after session player. A glance at his resume reveals names such as Joan Baez, the Bee Gees, Booker T and the MG's, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, the Eagles, John Lennon, the Stones, and Stevie Wonder.
Kleinow returned to the Burrito Brothers in 1976 and played with them in their various incarnations until the 1980's. At that time, Kleinow began devoting more time to his other passion--special effects. His work appears in The Empire Strikes Back, The Terminator, and Gremlins, and Dune, among others. In addition, Sneaky Pete did graphic work for video games, commericials and music videos.
A true artist, Sneaky Pete was instrumental to the both the birth of modern country rock and the development of cutting edge visual effects. His contributions will be missed.

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