Sacred steel guitar uplifts its listeners. As pedal steel guitarist DaShawn Hickman says, “The music that we play makes you forget about everything that happened in the day and just have fun.” The modern pedal steel guitar has its roots in Hawaiian lap steel, but African American House of God Churches transformed the playing style in the 1930s. Unlike in most other churches where a lead guitar or an organ drives a service, in this church the pedal steel guitar takes the lead—sometimes even mimicking singing.
Beyond the church, sacred steel has grown popular thanks to the likes of Robert Randolph, The Campbell Brothers, and Calvin Cooke. Hickman grew up in the small, granite and wood House of God Church (Keith Dominion) in Mt. Airy. By age 7, he was practicing the steel, inspired by his mother, the church’s player-turned-minister. For more than a decade, Hickman has played with bassist Mitchel Fonville, keyboardist Camron Moore and drummer Ranzy Moore as The Allen Boys. Today, The Allen Boys are North Carolina’s only touring sacred steel band.