My friend, the late Clarence White, from the iconic family bluegrass band, Kentucky Colonels, and later guitarist for Roger McGuinn's Byrds was credited with coming up with the idea of using a string bender on his Telecaster (performing the same function as a pedal on a pedal steel guitar). He approached his mechanically inclined drummer, Gene Parsons, and they came up with the Parsons-White Pull String guitar. The device incorporated a series of levers and springs mounted to the back or imbedded in the guitar body that attached to the front strap button of Clarence’s Tele and to the B string on the other end, so that pulling down on the neck engaged the levers to raise the pitch of the B string one whole step. The device required considerable modification to the guitar. Several handmade units followed and eventually the device became available in kit form or in a Telecaster body already outfitted with the device, both expensive propositions, the kit installation requiring extensive modification to one’s guitar.
The picture above is the design of the historic Parsons/White String Bender in Marty Stuart's Clarence White guitar showing the inner workings.
When Clarence met with a tragically untimely death, McGuinn put the name “Byrds” to rest, embarking upon a solo career and recruiting Richard Bowden (from Linda Ronstadt/Dan Fogelberg) as guitarist. Being a Gibson SG player, Bowden needed a device to emulate the pull string but there was nothing available for Gibsons except for the Bigsby Palm Pedal, which again, required modification to one’s guitar. So Bowden, mechanically inclined himself, went into his workshop and built a wrist pedal for his Gibson and his Martin acoustic that attached to an existing structure on the guitar, thereby needing no modification to the guitar.
The picture to the right shows the prototype of the Acoustic Non-Defacing Bender.
Because Bowden’s designs are non-defacing to the guitars, his devices are protected by U.S. Patent # 5,140,884. In the early 90s, Bowden leased the patent to a major U.S. guitar company for ten years who marketed it through their Korean-made subdivision as the EZ Bender. There were some manufacturing issues which kept them from performing as they should, so when the lease expired, the company discontinued production. In 2012 Bowden reclaimed his invention. The first and only Bowden-designed bender attached to a standard stop-bar tailpiece. The acoustic version for string peg and string-thru bridges came next. There are now models that will fit Telecasters, Strats, acoustics and other bridge/tailpiece configurations, including Electric banjos as well as a bender that fits on Bigsby Tremolo units without disengaging the tremolo.
The picture to the left is the updated version of the original Stop Bar production model.
Richard Bowden started his musical career in High School in Linden, TX, in 1963 with childhood friend and fellow band mate Don Henley of Eagle’s fame. As the ‘60s band named Felicity, they became one of the most popular bands on the Texas college fraternity and club circuit before changing their name to Shiloh and heading to Los Angeles in 1970. After recording one album and having a regional hit single, the band broke up in order to exit an undesirable management deal and three of the members, Richard, cousin Mike Bowden and Don Henley, joined Linda Ronstadt’s backup band.
In Richard’s 12 year stint in L.A. he recorded and/or performed as a lead guitarist with Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Stevie Nicks, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Rivers, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, The Flying Burrito Bros., Doug Kershaw, Johnny Rodriguez and Commander Cody, to name some notables. In 1980 he experienced moderate success with his own new band Blue Steel, recording two major label albums and serving as the opening act on the Eagles’ Long Run tour.
Moving from L.A. to Nashville in 1982, Richard co-founded the musical comedy team of Pinkard and Bowden, releasing five albums for Warner Bros. Records and making many appearances on the Nashville Network and other cable and network TV shows. Their Top 30 hit, “Mama, She’s Lazy,” sold more singles than the average #1 record according to Warner Bros. officials. The two were frequent guests on all the nation’s top morning radio shows. His musical comedy can still be heard regularly on the Big Show with Johnboy and Billy, The Bob & Tom Show, and Sirius/XM Radio’s comedy channels. For 16 years the duo played comedy clubs across America and opened concerts for acts such as Hank Williams, Jr., Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle, Neil Young (at Shreveport’s Municipal Auditorium), Don Henley and many others.
Retiring the act in 1998, Richard returned to Linden, Texas, where he spearheaded the development of the Music City Texas Theater (www.musiccitytexas.org). To establish regularity with the opening of the theater in 2003, he and his newest band Moon and the Starz performed there on the first Saturday of each month for the first few years, finally relinquishing their spot to bring in more acts. Now, the theater continues to bring in nationally known entertainers such as Jackson Browne, Don Henley (solo band) Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, the Bellamy Brothers, John Anderson, Michael Martin Murphey, Riders In The Sky, Asleep At The Wheel, and has even hosted country legends Merle Haggard and George Jones.
From Rock & Roll to Country Comedy, Bowden’s colorful career placed him on several iconic TV music shows including Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, the TV pilot for long running series The Midnight Special, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, The Grand Ol’ Opry and Hee Haw. He says proudly, “I guess Hee Haw was the most fun because I got to “SALUTE” Linden, TX, from the cornfield. On the others I just sang and played music.”
No longer touring, Richard continues to perform with his two favorite musical acts, The Bowden/Early Experience, and Hickory Hill, Texas' iconic bluegrass band. Richard retired in 2013 from serving as executive director of the Music City Texas Theater in Linden but remains on the theater's board of directors. Also a talented artist, Richard has recently rekindled his love for the drawing pad and, in the last couple of years, has won awards for his artwork at area art shows. A patented inventor, Richard has opened an Internet business offering several models of one of his inventions, a guitar string bender, for purchase from this website.