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Sneaky Pete Kleinow

Sneaky Pete Kleinow

American musician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American musician
Countries United States of America
Occupations Guitarist Singer-songwriter
Gender male
Birth 20 August 1934 (United States of America)
Death 6 January 2007 (Petaluma)
Sneaky Pete Kleinow
The details

Peter E. "Sneaky Pete" Kleinow (August 20, 1934 – January 6, 2007) was an American country-rock musician, songwriter, and a motion picture special effects artist. He is best known as a member of the band the Flying Burrito Brothers and as a session musician for such artists as Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, Joe Cocker, Rita Coolidge, Eagles, The Everly Brothers, George Harrison, The Steve Miller Band, Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder, Spencer Davis, Linda Ronstadt and many others.


Kleinow was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana; inspired by Jerry Byrd, he took up the pedal steel guitar in high school. Following graduation, he worked for over a decade as a maintenance worker at the Michigan Department of Transportation. In 1963, he relocated to Los Angeles, where he began a career as a visual effects artist and stop motion animator in the film and television industry. After uncredited work on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), The Outer Limits (1963–1965), and 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), The Terminator (1984), Kleinow became closely associated with the long-running children's series Gumby and Davey and Goliath while moonlighting in the city's incipient country-oriented nightclubs as a member of Smokey Rogers & the Western Caravan (from which his distinctive nickname originated) and the Detours (often deputizing for bandleader Red Rhodes, then concurrently employed as a session musician).

Through this scene he became acquainted with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons of the Byrds in 1968, helping the group to replicate their newly country-oriented sound onstage with banjoist Doug Dillard on several local club dates. Guitarist Roger McGuinn later alleged that Hillman and Parsons intended to replace him with Kleinow and did not countenance his inclusion alongside Dillard in an upcoming European tour, a decision that hastened their imminent departure from the band. After signing to A&M Records and briefly considering Lloyd Green (who, as per Hillman, "would have never left a lucrative career as a session man to go out with us"), Parsons and Hillman invited Kleinow to join their new project: the Flying Burrito Brothers. For Kleinow, the opportunity was the culmination of his desire to "finally make a living with music," and he would work for much of the next decade as a professional musician. Never paragons of commercial success (the band's first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, peaked at #164 on the Billboard album chart), the Flying Burrito Brothers would go on to influence generations of popular musicians.

One of the first pedal steel players to work in a rock context, Kleinow—who favored the outmoded Fender 400, a cable-operated eight-string model—incorporated atypical tunings (necessitated by the technical limitations of the instrument) and liberal use of electronic innovations (including such accoutrements as the fuzzbox and the tape echo) into his style. As such, his style of playing was immediately influential upon second-generation players such as Jerry Garcia, Buddy Cage of the New Riders of the Purple Sage and sessionman Al Perkins.

The nudie suit worn by Kleinow on the cover of 1969's The Gilded Palace of Sin, along with his Fender 400 pedal steel guitar, displayed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Favoring a relatively abstemious and reclusive lifestyle in comparison to some of his bandmates (nevertheless, according to bassist Chris Ethridge, he "loved to drink wine" and frequently exhibited science fiction films at the "Burrito Manor" shared by Parsons and Hillman in Reseda throughout 1968), intolerant of the group's infamously erratic live performances, and increasingly disenchanted by his exclusion from the creative process (including the diminution of his parts in released mixes and the summary rejection of his songwriting efforts), he left the Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971. Despite this setback, the imprimatur of the band allowed Kleinow to enjoy a lucrative career as a session musician throughout this period. He appeared on albums by Joe Cocker (Joe Cocker!, 1969), Delaney, Bonnie and Friends (To Bonnie from Delaney, 1970), Joni Mitchell (Blue,1971), Billy Joel (Cold Spring Harbor, 1971), Little Feat (Sailin' Shoes, 1972), Frank Zappa (Waka/Jawaka, 1972), the Bee Gees (Life in a Tin Can, 1973), Yoko Ono (Feeling the Space, 1973), John Lennon (Mind Games, 1973), John Cale (Paris 1919, 1973), Linda Ronstadt (Heart Like A Wheel, 1974), Harry Nilsson (Pussy Cats, 1974), Stevie Wonder (Fulfillingness' First Finale, 1974 and Songs in the Key of Life, 1976), Fleetwood Mac (Heroes Are Hard to Find, 1974), and Leonard Cohen (Death of a Ladies' Man, 1977).

In 1974 Kleinow was part of a new band, Cold Steel, and then a reconstituted Flying Burrito Brothers. His first solo album, Sneaky Pete, was released in 1978 and The Legend and the Legacy followed in 1994.

Following a second stint on Davey and Goliath in 1972, he returned to visual effects in earnest as an animator on Sid and Marty Krofft's Land of the Lost (1974–1976) and created the dinosaurs for the comic film Caveman (1981). He was a co-recipient of the 1983 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for his work on the highly successful ABC miniseries The Winds of War. Although often uncredited, Kleinow contributed stop motion and other visual effects to a number of films and miniseries over the next three decades, including Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Right Stuff (1983), Gremlins (1984), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2 (1991), Starship Troopers (1997), and Holes (2003) while continuing to work sporadically as a professional musician.

In 2000, Kleinow formed a group called Burrito Deluxe (also the name of a 1970 Flying Burrito Brothers album) with Garth Hudson, former organist of The Band, Carlton Moody of the Moody Brothers on lead vocals and guitars, bassist Jeff "Stick" Davis of Amazing Rhythm Aces and drummer Rick Lonow. The group recorded three albums, Georgia Peach, The Whole Enchilada and 2007's Disciples of the Truth, which feature his last studio recordings. Kleinow's last performance was at a 2005 Gram Parsons tribute "Gram Fest" concert in Joshua Tree, California, the town in which Gram Parsons had died.


On January 6, 2007, Kleinow died at a convalescent home near the skilled nursing facility in Petaluma, California. Suffering from Alzheimer's disease, he had been living at the facility since 2006.

Three months before his death, local singer songwriter Jan White and bassist Pat Campbell gave Kleinow a final private concert, performing several Gram Parsons songs for him, set in the nursing facility's garden. Kleinow was brought to tears and expressed his joy and gratitude for the special moment.

Personal life

Kleinow was married to Ernestine Kleinow for 54 years until his death. They had three sons and two daughters together.


For albums by the Flying Burrito Brothers see their discography.

Solo projects

  • Cold Steel (1974)
  • Sneaky Pete (1979)
  • The Legend and the Legacy (1994)
  • Meet Sneaky Pete (2001)

Other appearances

Kleinow appears on numerous rock and country-rock albums, including those by:

  • Kinky Friedman
  • Joan Baez
  • The Bee Gees
  • Booker T. and the MG's
  • Jackson Browne
  • The Byrds
  • John Cale
  • Cherokee
  • Gene Clark
  • Joe Cocker
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Rita Coolidge
  • Rick Danko
  • Delaney & Bonnie
  • Sandy Denny
  • Dillard & Clark
  • Dion and the Belmonts
  • Eagles
  • The Everly Brothers
  • Mimi Fariña
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • The Golden Palominos
  • Gib Guilbeau
  • George Harrison
  • Jermaine Jackson
  • Billy Joel
  • Al Kooper
  • John Lennon
  • Gordon Lightfoot
  • Little Feat
  • Little Richard
  • Barbara Keith
  • The Knack
  • Gladys Knight
  • The Lemonheads
  • Dave Mason
  • Mason Proffit
  • The Steve Miller Band
  • Joni Mitchell
  • Harry Nilsson
  • Danny O'Keefe
  • Yoko Ono
  • Robert Palmer
  • Peaches & Herb
  • Minnie Riperton
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • Doug Sahm
  • Neil Sedaka
  • Judee Sill
  • Carly Simon
  • Sly & the Family Stone
  • Ringo Starr
  • The Talbot Brothers
  • The Ventures
  • Steely Dan
  • Bobby Womack
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Frank Zappa
  • Medicine
  • Bobby Solo
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Rave-Ups
  • Bill Cowsill

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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