The lure of a diabolical impulse

Occasionally I am seized by what I like to call “diabolical impulses.”

These are not like your regular, garden-variety impulses, the ones that make you buy the candy bar from that display next to the cash register, or purchase that tractor I mentioned a couple of weeks back.

A diabolical impulse can (A.) get you into trouble, (B.) forever alter your life, (C.) cost you a lot of money, and (D.) all of the above. And the answer is almost always (D.) Which of course, leads to (E.) you’re going to have a tough time explaining it to normal people.

These sorts of impulses can only be planted by dark forces, which is why I call them diabolical. And as you have probably guessed, I am in the grips of one even as we speak and it involves a pedal steel guitar.

A pedal steel guitar is the swooping, crying, ear-catching sound you hear in country music.

I used to play it some. In fact, I got deeply into it, which was the problem. The pedal steel – a contraption that requires both hands, both feet, both knees and both hemispheres of your brain to play – is not an instrument that willingly gives up its secrets. It plays mind games.

It used to wake me up in the middle of the night. “Pssst,” it would hiss from my music room downstairs, “Come on down, Mike. I’ve got something I want to show you. You’ll love it.” And I would pad downstairs at 2 a.m. to play one lick. One. And play it I would, until I was two hours late for work.

Eventually, I got too busy to devote that much time to the steel, so I swapped it for a jazz archtop guitar, and I thought that was that.

Ha. Guess who’s been calling me in the middle of the night for the last two weeks? Guess who convinced me to sell a banjo so I’d have some ready cash?

And then guess who got to my friend Frank, who was talking about putting together a country band just for fun and mentioned that the steel position might be open.

If that’s not the devil at work I don’t know what is.

Get thee behind me, Satan. Quit playing pedal steel licks in my head. Quit picking on me for not picking on a steel.

For heaven’s sake, I’m still explaining the tractor.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Write him at for information on speaking fees and availability.