Rico Turchetti

Jazz, Pop, Inventor

RICO TURCHETTI (1917-2005)


Members of the Historical Archive Committee of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame are researching and documenting the career of this important Ocean State musician and inventor. When work is completed, we will be posting an in-depth biography and complete discography on this page. In the meantime, please enjoy this introduction to his career as a performer and recording artist and his accomplishments as a central figure in the invention and popularization of the pedal steel guitar.

In 1930 at age 13, Americo Turchetti of Providence began to study the Hawaiian steel guitar with the area’s leading player, Joseph Petteruti, who led the top band of its kind in the Northeast, The Hawaiian Islanders. By the time he was 18, Rico had joined Joe’s band and was a full time musician. In 1940, he invented the pedal steel guitar when he asked Joe to help him attach a foot pedal to the top string on his guitar which would allow him to raise the pitch. By the time he was drafted in 1944, there were four pedals on his instrument allowing him to raise and lower the pitch on several strings. He was seen by thousands performing with this guitar in Hawaii and in Japan during the Allied Occupation. By 1952, his guitar had eight foot pedals and he became a contestant on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts TV show. Godfrey immediately hired him as a regular on his variety show for the next two years which led to national record releases on the Derby and RCA Victor labels. Although there is evidence that others were experimenting with foot pedals in the 1940s and ‘50s, Rico had been working independently on his invention since 1940. By the time Sho-Bud and Fender began manufacturing pedal steels in 1957, he had 17 years of performing internationally and on television under his belt and had been seen and heard by millions. Rico passed away in 2005 and he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2006.