Ed "Pee Wee Charles" Ringwald wipes tears from his eyes as he accepts the award for Steel Guitar Player of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Association Gala at the London Convention Centre in London, Ont. on Saturday September 10, 2016. Craig Glover/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network
All that was missing as Ed Ringwald teared up at the CCMA gala in London on Saturday was the sound of his sweetly mournful pedal steel guitar to back up his words of appreciation.
Ringwald thanked his famous employers, Ian and Sylvia Tyson and Gordon Lightfoot, after pausing to wipe his eyes following the crowd’s ovation when his name was announced.
The emotion was, in part, because the pedal steel had came close to being to being “retired” as a separate category by the CCMA.
With retirement looming for 2016, pedal steel aces would compete with mandolin players among others in the specialty instrument category.
“I meant to thank (CCMA president) Don Green and all the committee for reinstating the steel guitar,” Ringwald said later. “They listened to us and it was great.”
Ringwald, of Waterloo, helped lead a successful campaign earlier this year to have the revered instrument maintain its own category in CCMA voting. “We needed to speak up because the instrument has been part of country music for so many years . . . We all spoke up,” Ringwald said.
The Western Swing Authority pedal steel player has been heard with such Canadian country stars as George Canyon, Beverley Mahood, Shane Yellowbird, Jim Witter, Jamie Warren, Gord Bamford, Jason Blaine and Jason McCoy.
Such credits helped mark Saturday as Ringwald’s fifth win and he now is in the CCMA’s Musician Awards Hall of Honour. It is the equivalent, a friend joked with affection, of having his number retired.
Ringwald jested during his acceptance speech he looked forward to playing golf with such fellow Hall of Honour members as guitarist Wendell Ferguson, who also are out of active award competition because they, too, have reached the magic number of wins.
Speaking of magic, a Ringwald admirer mentioned how beautiful his pedal steel had sounded during the Michelle Wright-Jessica Mitchell-Mike Stevens version of Ian and Sylvia’s Four Strong Winds at Friday’s Legends concert.
Ringwald had worked with the famed folk duo on TV and with their band, Great Speckled Bird.
“We did it many times on the (TV) show,” Ringwald recalled. “(On Friday) it was magical. I got goosebumps.”