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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Alvino Rey, a nationally famous swing-band leader of the '30s and '40s and the pioneer of the pedal steel guitar which became his trademark, has died. He was 95.
He had suffered from pneumonia before dying Tuesday at a Salt Lake City care facility, said his son, Robert.
Born Alvin McBurney, in Oakland, Calif., Rey changed his name in 1929 to capitalize on the Latin music craze after beginning his music career in New York. He led orchestras for 40 years under his new name.
Never a formally trained musician, Rey instead learned to play guitar by watching other people and listening to recordings, said his son, Robert, of Salt Lake City.
In 1937, he married Luise King, one of the Four King Sisters -- a group that sang backup for the Alvino Rey Orchestra and his other ensembles.
Rey and his orchestra gained national fame with the 1942 hit, "Deep in the Heart of Texas."
Nearly 25 years later, Rey was again in the national spotlight when he and King Sisters were featured for several seasons on ABC Television's "The King Family Show."
Robert Rey said his father was an amicable figure in the industry, which was unusual for someone of his prominence and responsibility at the time.
"The big band leaders, a lot of them ruled with an iron hand," he said. "Many of them were very difficult to work with. But the people in his band would always tell him he was such a nice guy."
Rey left music from 1944 to 1946 to serve in the Navy, Robert said. "By the time, he was a very established musician. He could have been in a service band but he, for some reason, went in as an enlisted person."
Robert Rey said his father's longtime affection for electronics led him to develop his own pedal steel guitar in the infancy of the electric guitar age. Now, the high-pitched, meandering wail produced by the pedal steel guitar is a fixture of country music.
Alvino Rey continued to perform even after his touring days ended. He had a show last fall in Provo, Utah.
"He was a really a hot banjo player," Robert Rey said. "Right before he died, he was acting like he was on his last leg, but he would start playing the banjo and really make that instrument come alive."
Besides Robert, Rey is survived by his son, Jon, of Sandy, Utah; daughter Liza Butler, of Southwest Harbor, Maine; and six grandchildren.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)