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“Telemaster” Redd Volkaert - who has performed and recorded with a Who’s Who of musical artists - most enjoys the freedom of fronting his own band. Photo by Phil Houseal

To read the complete list of artists Redd Volkaert has performed with - and his clever autobiography - visit his web site www.reddvolkaert.com.


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Redd Volkaert: Telemaster

by Phil Houseal
Aug 31, 2011


If I listed half the famous musicians Redd Volkaert has played with, I’d use up all the words allotted for this column. You could start with Ray Price, Commander Cody, Larry Gatlin, and Bill Monroe and go all the way through George Jones, Dwight Yokum, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton.

Hard to believe when someone first tried to put a guitar in his hands, Volkaert didn’t want to take it.

“My dad asked my brother and me if we wanted to play music,” remembered Volkaert, who grew up in British Columbia. “I said, no, I’ll play soccer. But my brother got a guitar and quit, so I wound up stuck with his old guitar.”

Now known as the “Telemaster” for the way he plucks his 1953 Fender Telecaster guitar, Volkaert is a sought-after teacher, sideman, studio/road musician, bandleader, and self-proclaimed “guitar dork.”

I’ve heard him perform locally, and finally caught up with him at Hondo’s, where we were able to visit for a few minutes before he had to go on stage. (See short video of Volkaert performing with Doug Davis and the Note Ropers)


Volkaert is funny and self-deprecating, as if any kid could pick up a guitar and play like he does. When I asked him when he knew for sure that he was good at playing the guitar and wanted to do it for a living, he deadpanned, “I’m still waiting.”

Actually, that revelation came a little earlier in his career. He was 13 and playing guitar in his first club, which happened to be a “clothing optional” venue for certain performers sharing the stage.

“I got to play music, learning from these older musicians, with a girl in panties on each side? Hell, yeah, this is what I want to do!”

A few years earlier, his musical career looked more tenuous. As a 10-year-old, his guitar teacher “fired” him.

“I wasn’t learning to read music,” Volkaert confessed. “I was cheating. I’d watch him play, go home and memorize it, then come back and play the lesson for him.”

Until one day his teacher busted him.

“I dropped my pick, and when I bent over to pick it up, the teacher had turned the page. So when I came back up, I played the wrong page. He said to my dad, he’s got a great ear but he can’t read music.”

Volkaert later eventually learned to read well enough to stay one lesson ahead of his own guitar students... and to sustain a career playing and recording with the top talent in the country.

In an interesting twist, one of the artists Volkaert liked as a lad was Merle Haggard. Years later Volkaert would tour a hundred shows a year with Haggard. (“When Merle Haggard called and wanted to know if I was interested in working with him, I hesitated... for 3/10ths of a second.”)

Now in his 50s, Volkaert still carries that enthusiasm for his chosen instrument. He has his own band - the radically named Redd Volkaert Band - based in Kyle, Texas. Unlike his studio and sideman gigs, this is where he can play all the kinds of music he likes.

“In my own band, I get to play a bit of bluesy stuff. When we play a country song, I can put in a jazzy solo, a blues solo, a country solo, then try to emulate the pedal steel on another solo. To me - if you are feeling a wild hair, let one go.”

His jokiness and refusal to take himself seriously reveals a man who is still curious about his instrument and willing to experiment - especially live, on stage.

“I’m always trying to discover what works, mixing and matching styles, trying to come up with stuff nobody else does,” he said. “‘Live’ is always more fun. Playing in the studio is more of a mental challenge, trying to make it perfect. Whereas live it only goes by once, so let’s try this. If it doesn’t work, who gives a shit.”

Backing up the big stars carries a different challenge.

“With some Nashville stars, if you play different than what’s on the record, that throws them off,” he said. “But that’s the job, and if it pays enough, that’s what you do.”