Florida Memory is administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services, Bureau of Archives and Records Management. The digitized records on Florida Memory come from the collections of the State Archives of Florida and the special collections of the State Library of Florida.
Willie Eason performing steel guitar music at his home
One audio cassette recording. This tape consisted of excerpts of a longer recording of Eason, recorded at his home. The Sacred Steel Guitar Recording Project originated in 1992 when Florida Folklife Program folklorist Robert Stone discovered that several predominantly African American House of God churches (a sub-sect of the Pentecostal church) in the St. Petersburg area were using steel guitars in their religious services. The practice began by Willie and Troman Eason in the 1930s, and expanded upon by players such as Henry Nelson and Lorenzo Harrison. Realizing that this was a unique musical tradition, labeled Sacred Steel, the Florida Folklife Program to applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to conduct fieldwork and create a music album for public dispersal. The aim of the project was to increase public awareness of the gospel steel guitar tradition, as well as document it for future generations. Matched with state funds, the grant period originally ran from October 1993 through October 1994, but was extended for another year. In that time Stone, along with sound engineers William Dudley and Mike Stapleton, interviewed and recorded several steel guitarists in the St. Petersburg area. An album entitled Sacred Steel was released in 1995. It was then re-released through an agreement with Arhoolie Records in 1997.