On View
Musical Crossroads Gallery
Musical Crossroads
Created by
Williams, Felton W. Jr., American, 1934 - 2012
ca. 1963
wood, alloy steel, metal, brass, aluminum alloy, and plastic
L x W (Guitar): 38 1/2 x 11 1/4 x 3 3/8 in. (97.8 x 28.6 x 8.6 cm)
L x W (Case): 42 1/2 x 17 x 4 3/4 in. (108 x 43.2 x 12.1 cm)
L x W (Legs retracted): 25 × 1 5/8 × 1 in. (63.5 × 4.1 × 2.5 cm)
Felton W. Williams Jr. was born on January 3, 1934, in Tupelo, Mississippi. In 1943 his family moved to Detroit, where they attended the same House of God Church as fellow steel guitar pioneer Maurice “Ted” Beard. Williams began playing lap steel in 1947, and by 1952 had played for many large church assemblies in Detroit, Toledo, Ohio, Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee. In 1956 Williams began working as electrician for Ford Motor Company, a job he would have until retirement in 1994. He used his skills as an electrician to build amplifiers and steel guitars. Williams also taught steel guitar to youth from the church, and had a recording studio in his basement, where he recorded many gospel records for local singers. He was respected in the Sacred Steel community as an innovator, recording artist, studio owner, producer, instructor and inventor.
Williams built this steel guitar between 1961 and 1963. It is the first guitar he built, and was his main instrument until he could afford to buy a new guitar in 1970.
A console steel guitar consisting of a wood base with two (2) seven-string assemblies attached, the rear mounted higher than the front. There are four (4) steel tube legs that attach to the bottom of the guitar, forming a console. Between the string assemblies are power and sound controls mounted to aluminum plates. The guitar is packed in a black, vinyl-covered case with steel corners.
Place made
Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, United States, North and Central America
Musical Instruments
steel guitars
Gospel (Music)
Instrumentalists (Musicians)
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Gift of Felton W. Williams, Jr.
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Public domain
Proper usage is the responsibility of the user.

Cataloging is an ongoing process and we may update this record as we conduct additional research and review. If you have more information about this object, please contact us at NMAAHCDigiTeam@si.edu

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