Slide!!! Yep, it's Jackie Robinson stealing home in the '55 World Series but it's also a whole special world of American guitar music. Sorta starts with the Hawaiian music (and everything else) craze that swept the US in the 1930s, what they called “slack key” playing over there. A regular guitar, tuned to an open chord but played facing up on the lap, the strings raised way up at the nut so that you could use a smooth bar to slide up and down with your left hand and pick with the fingers of your right hand. Over here, the Czechoslovakian immigrant Dopyera Brothers with their Dobro brand (“Dobro" from Dopyera Brothers, get it?) got into the act of making special wood-bodied guitars big time by having the strings push down on an aluminum resonator cone, speaker-like, for some startling new tones. At around the same time, National got into it with their metal-bodied instruments with a similar resonator cone system. And so this sound spread, notably to the blues players of the Mississippi Delta region, who held their guitars in the regular way, mostly tuned them open, and would put something hollow and smooth, often the cut off neck of a bottle, over a finger of their left hand to slide up and down and and away they went. Robert Johnson, Son House, that whole world of “bottleneck slide” blues musicians. As a sidelight, over the years the name Dobro became unintentionally synonymous with any guitar of any brand, wood or metal body, that had that kind of resonator though Dobro was really a proprietary brand name. This kind of thing has happened so often with inventions that caught on: “Aspirin" and “Zipper" both started out as brand names and we know where those went. So with “Dobro”, commonly and unintentionally used by many to mean any stringed instrument with a resonator.
But I digress. Slide guitars of many different kinds grew out of this craze, working their way into other kinds of music. In the mid-late 1930s with the rise of the electric guitar we see small solidbody six-string (and occasionally eight-string) versions coming initially from Rickenbacker (then spelled "Rickenbacher”) and from Gibson and working their way into country music. By the 1940s-50s there were zillions of 'em out there, many of the less expensive ones made under different names for different distributors by Valco of Chicago. And then there was Fender, God bless ‘em. While not the only ones to do so, they made several versions in the 1950s and ‘60s that stood up on their own removable legs so you could sit in front of them and play; 6-string, 8-string, and also double- and triple-neck versions for instant access to different tunings. And then…… the pedal steel guitar! A solidbody electric steel guitar on legs with ten or twelve strings, foot pedals (and often knee levers too) that could raise and/or lower the pitch of different groups of strings. It’s what made the sound of so much of the ‘50s, and especially the '60s and onward, C&W hits; Nashville would not have been the same without it.