His Life

About Bob

From Bob's website "The Pedal Steel Pages" 

Robert P. “Bobby” Lee is a pedal steel guitar player and active promoter of the instrument, including founding and participating on a number of Internet websites and discussion forums.

Inspired by the steel guitar styles of Jerry Garcia (with The Grateful Dead) and Don Helms (with Hank Williams), Bobby Lee took up the steel guitar in 1972. He started performing with country bands in San Francisco in 1975, and became a common fixture in Sonoma County’s country music scene starting in 1979. As a steel guitarist, his band affiliations included The Cowpokes, The Western Rhythm Gang, The Wheelers, Scott Gerber & Cowboy Country, The Stringbusters, Wanted, The Country All-Stars, John Reese & Open Hearts, Laughing Gravy, The Rhythm Rangers, Manzanita Moon, and Wine Country Swing. Bobby Lee retired from his career as a performing steel guitarist in February, 2019.

In 1996, Bobby Lee recorded and produced Quasar Steel Guitar, an album of his steel guitar music. He also produced The Demo of Wine Country Swing, his duo with guitarist Hugh Harris, in 2015.

As “b0b” (his online handle), he became involved in BBSes in 1983. He had his own BBS called The Nite Owl Motel, which networked with Usenet and Prodigy, and managed a FidoNet BBS for his employer.  He leveraged that experience to launch The Steel Guitar Forum in 1997. Over the years that followed, The Steel Guitar Forum has become the online center of the international steel guitar community.

Layaway Guitar

"Irwin didn't have a music store, so I would sometimes take a Lincoln Coach bus down to Mckeesport. Mckeesport was like another world. It was industrial. There were black people. I remember seeing an R&B band playing outside near the bus stop. You'd never see that in Irwin. I bought an Otis Redding album there (which Dad hated, of course).

Anyway, a red electric guitar in the music store there caught my eye. It was a Harmony Rocket with 2 pickups, and probably cost about $100 back then (1965 or '66). I never had that much money at one time so I put it on layaway and paid for it over a few months. It looked like this:

I later took it to San Francisco and jammed with friends there on it. I got frustrated with my playing - I was no Jerry Garcia - and ended up selling it to a pawn shop. Many years later I found and bought a similar guitar. It felt so comfortable in my hands! Shoshanah has that one now."  -Bob


"I don't remember "dating" at all in high school, or ever. It's not something I did. I had girlfriends, but we'd just get together at each others' houses. I've lost touch with all of them. My first and best girlfriend was Jeannie Heacox. After she moved away to Derry, I would take 2 buses (transferring in Greensburg) to visit her. We were really attracted to each other, but she couldn't relate to me when I came back from San Francisco all hippyfied, and that was the end of that.: ~ Bob

My Dad

NOTE:  Explicit comments below.  This is autobiographical so keeping the content to retain the integrity of the story.

Dad worked the Union Railroad switchyard in East Pittsburgh when I was young. He was laid off several times when there wasn't enough work, and we went on welfare while he tended bar. Then he went to work as a letter carrier for the Post Office in Irwin. Even then, I think his life centered more around bar rooms than home life. He became commander of the local VFW (a bar, actually), and president of The Polish Club (another bar). His main hangout was the bar at the Irwin Hotel. He also played the bugle in a marching drum and bugle corps. They practiced (and drank) at the VFW. He played softball and took us to his games, where he got drunk on Rolling Rock beer. The smell of Rolling Rock still reminds me of those games.

I think Dad tried to raise Dennis and I in his own image. That didn't work. It just made us resent him. When we were little, he took us fishing. Watching fish gasp for air and die in a bucket freaked me out. Once he threw me in the water to teach me to swim. I nearly drowned. That was very traumatic. As we got older, he taught us how to change tires and oil on his car. He never went to a mechanic, and his cars were always breaking down. He liked old Cadillacs that required special tools that he didn't have. That bruised his knuckles and made him mad.

He built a bar in our basement, but I don't think he ever really used it. It became our music room when we were teenagers. The electric wiring was basically ungrounded extension cords. Bad, very bad. He built a shower down there, too. Very primitive. Dad was not a good handyman.

Dad was a chain smoker - 2 packs a day, unfiltered. He had a very unhealthy diet, too. He died of a heart attack at age 56, probably because of his lifestyle. Also, he was a racist. Not that it mattered - there were no black people in Irwin - but you could tell by the way he talked about them. He called rock "n——- music". He was prejudiced against Jews and Italians, too. And of course Japanese.

The Vietnam war was raging when we were teenagers, and that drove a real wedge between him and us kids. Dad had been a Marine. He couldn't understand our generation's objections, our music, our long hair, and we couldn't relate to him either. I left home for San Francisco after high school. I never thought about contacting him. We didn't have enough in common to carry on much of a conversation. We did reconcile years later, and I'm thankful for that.

When asked what prevented him from following in his father's footsteps, he replied:  "Grandpap and Uncle Dick were my best role models growing up. Church taught me to respect all kinds of people. I took The Golden Rule to heart. I can't subscribe to the magical thinking part of Christianity, but I still believe that Jesus' philosophy of life - love your neighbor and all that - is the correct and most satisfying way to live. That's how Grandpap and Uncle Dick lived, as far as I could tell. But I did go down an entirely different path to end up in a similar state of mind."


When I turned 50, I partied with all of my siblings at Lou and Bucky's house. I'm sure we jammed. I don't remember the food. Brother-in-law Jim Styslinger snapped this picture (below). It was my best birthday ever.
That year a lot of my friends also turned 50. I remember Dennis Sherman's party at a bar on the bay in SF. There was a band and we all jammed and everyone had a lot of fun. Jamming is a birthday tradition among most musicians, I think.
The best birthday present I can remember was when Mum paid my way into Idlewild Park for the Irwin Community Picnic - and got me my first "Senior Discount".
I'm not much of a foodie and most of the good stuff I can't eat anyway, so I don't have a favorite dessert.

My First Job

Dennis and I always found ways of making money. We cut grass or shoveled snow for neighbors. We sold seeds and Christmas cards door to door from ads in the back of comic books. We delivered newspapers.

My first "real" job was in a small drugstore, Bergad's Drugs, on main street in Irwin. I probably just walked in and asked for a job. I stocked shelves and ran the cash register. It still shows up on my Social Security statement!

I was always motivated to make money because I didn't have an allowance! My first hobby was building model cars. The model kits and paint cost money. When The Beatles came, I needed money for records and music books. I'm pretty sure that the job I had at Bergad's Drugs financed my first electric guitar.

My First Guitar

Someone gave me a guitar - a Harmony Stella - in 1963. I was into building model cars, so I immediately spray-painted the guitar black with blue around the sound hole, fading to black. It had 3 strings. I learned to play the melody of "Sukiyaki", a Japanese tune that was all over the radio at the time.

Then The Beatles arrived. Their Ed Sullivan performances in February 1964 inspired me. From then on, music was the primary focus of my life. I learned to read music for guitar from a classical book called "The Carcassi Method". I bought songbooks of Beatles, Bob Dylan, Donovan, and other pop songs. I learned to strum chords from the guitar chord diagrams in those books.

My Mum

What was your Mum like when you were a child? How did she manage you and your brother and sisters? What makes you proud of her? What is something you would say to your Mum if a meteor was destined to destroy earth in one hour?

Mum was overwhelmed with six kids. She cried a lot. I think that without her parents' help, we wouldn't have done very well at all. But as it turned out, we all loved each other unconditionally, as she loved us.  We ran pretty wild. Mum couldn't "manage" us at all, but she did manage to keep us fed and clothed. She cooked, cleaned, and ironed, and when we were all in school she got a job to help keep the family afloat financially. Much later I realized that we were actually one of the poorest families in town, but we never felt it at the time. As for the meteor question, every time I talk to her I know it could be the last. There's nothing left unsaid.
"It's just everything lined up in my life."  ~ Bob
February 1, 2023
"Last night I got pretty emotional just laying in bed.  A lot of it was I'm going to say, was tears of joy,  My heart was filled.  I looked into my sister's eyes and it was a mirror, a mirror you know - her, and our whole family."  ~ Bob
On accepting the award on stage at the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
"It's the Members that make the Forum.  It's not me.  It's you."  ~ Bob
"It was only by surprise, I mean I just thought I was just putting up a little computer bulletin board.  And all the sudden it just exploded.  The first year I struggled like hell to keep it even working because I was getting so much traffic and the software was not ready for anything like that - what it was made for.  I thought I was building a little BBS - a little Bulletin Board System."  ~ Bob