Great State: Joe Settlemire’s Singing Guitar

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CHICKASHA, OKLAHOMA -- Joe Settlemires was 12 years old when he traded his bike and most of his toys for a cheap guitar.

After that he never really let go.

Joe graduated from his first gig at a root beer stand to a stiffer kind of drink.

He recalls, "My brother would take me around to clubs. They called them beer joints back in those days."

He played wherever he could including Las Vegas as a teenager.

He played with Bob Wills himself, and is now known as the youngest of the Texas Playboys.

At each stop he picked up knowledge from whoever would give it out.

Settlemires says, "I learned from everyone. I'd be playing western music out in Vegas and then go out to the Jazz clubs and learn that way."

He's not what you'd call a big star to the general public, never was.

But Joe's guitar shows up all over recordings made in Nashville.

You name them and he's played for them: Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney.

He did an album with Vince Gill who said, "All over the world there are certain pockets and places that hold really, really amazing musicians and Joe is one of them."

Settlemires has lost count of all the Halls of Fame he's in, but the Orange Blossom Special of his life slides right through her the most.

For the past 14 years this Oklahoma music legend has directed the USAO Show Band.

Most of his students didn't really know him before they came to the Chickasha campus, but they do now.

"I watch Joe every day in class," says one of the singers in the group. "And he knows I watch him so he's turn to me when he's playing to show me what he's doing."

Joe's bucket list is empty.

His one regret, not much.

"I wish I could sing a little bit," he says. "Because I would have been a big star."

Joe Settlemires doesn't sing on any of his recordings but that doesn't me you can't hear his voice.

It comes through loud and clear on six strings and through the people he's passed knowledge to during a career that's covered a lot of ground, fast.

Settlemires and the USAO Show Band have a busy performance schedule for the Spring including a stop in Turkey, Texas for the annual Bob Wills reunion.

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