Does musical genius skip a generation?

Ransom Riggs

Case in point: my current band-crush, The Arcade Fire. (To be more exact, we're talking about musical genius here.) Now, I'm not going to belabor the issue: TAF are pretty much geniuses -- their freshman and sophomore albums have been hailed by rock critics everywhere as, individually and respectively, just about the most groundbreaking and important freshman and sophomore rock albums of the last decade or so. But did you know that singer Win Butler and bandmate/brother William Butler's grandfather, Alvino Rey, was also a musical genius?

Known as the "Wizard of the pedal steel guitar," Rey (real name Alvin McBurney) was a pioneer and guitar virtuoso who helped popularize the pedal steel in the United States, headed up a number of swing and exotica bands as a bandleader (and produced a number of hits, some of which are featured on the well-known Ultra-Lounge albums). His greatest hits were "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and "I'm Lookin' Over a Four-Leaf Clover." Even more impressive, he was a master of guitar engineering, and his innovations in acoustic amplification led directly to the development of the guitar pickup. By attaching a needle from his mother's Victrola to his banjo, he was able to amplify the sound -- and soon thereafter Gibson hired him to help design some of the first electric guitars. And now his grandkids are rocking the stuffin' out of millions of kids the world 'round with instruments he helped develop.

Time for a little side-by-side comparison, courtesy YouTube. Check out the amazing pedal steel stylings of Alvino Rey on this 50s-era Lawrence Welk appearance. (He does some of his famous "talking guitar" bit in the middle of the song; see if you can catch it.)

Now check out his grandkids, rocking the crowd at Coachella with "Rebellion (Lies)":