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Aubrey Ghent: Sacred Steel Guitar

Posted Aug. 20, 2012, at 2:07 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2012, at 11:24 a.m.

After 38 years of playing the Lap Steel Guitar, Aubrey Ghent is a legend and master artist in his own right. At the age of 6, Ghent developed a great passion for the lap steel. His first guitar was a “true tone” rhythm and he used a true tone amplifier, which was a great combination, but Ghent wasn’t satisfied. He decided to use a No. 16 nail under the stings to raise their height (as he had seen someone else do) in order to use a steel bar and play the guitar as a steel.

After about six months his grandfathers, Bishop W.L. Nelson and Elder Eugene Ghent, got together and bought his first steel guitar and amplifier. It was a red Supro and a small, used, tweed Fender Deluxe amp. After three years of much practice, he began playing for church services at age 9. His skills were so amazing that local churches and other events began inviting him to play for services and venues. It wasn’t long before he began to travel to other cities and states playing his steel.

As a teenage deacon, Aubrey began to preach and was called, “the preaching deacon.” At age 20, he fully accepted the call and began evangelizing through word and music. His preaching ministry and church positions became increasingly demanding and took precedence over his music, so he played less. After several years Ghent realized that his purpose and destiny was to fulfill both ministries and he began devoting equal time and attention to them both.

In 1992, while playing tunes in a music store in Miami, an employee told him that he knew of a man who would love to hear him play: Robert Stone of the Florida Folklife Department. After Stone heard him play, Ghent, who had been playing at concerts throughout Florida and other states, began playing at festivals and events nationally and internationally with Stone’s help.

In 1994, Ghent performed at the Smithsonian Folk Masters Concert at the Barns of Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA where his music was recorded and placed in the Institute’s archives. Later that year he was named and awarded Master Artist of the state of Florida. He gained national attention by being on National Public Radio on numerous occasions. He soon signed with Arhoolie Records, and his group, Aubrey Ghent & Friends, released its first CD, “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus.” The record was a huge success and continues to be in high demand. That was only the beginning.

Ghent has appeared with artists such as Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Bishop Ronald Brown, Mighty Clouds of Joy, Shirley Ceasar, Dorothy Norwood, Albertina Walker, Inez Andrews, Derrick Trucks Band, Susan Tedeschi, To To Jones, and Tremaine Hawkins. Ghent toured with Susan Tedeschi as her opener in 2003 in the Southeastern U.S., and appeared with Tedeschi, The Derek Trucks Band, Rev. Billy Wirths, David Maxwell, and Corey Harris on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise in January 2005. He toured acoustically in Italy that year, and his band was booked for a European tour in December 2005.

Ghent’s wife, Lori, also plays with the band. Aubrey Ghent is a virtuoso instrumental soloist, Aubrey and Lori are an acoustic duo, and they have a five-piece, soulful band. Their repertoire is also versatile and fits in several genres such as gospel, traditional gospel, contemporary gospel, gospel blues, folk, and bluegrass.

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