This weekend, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum featured guitarist Brent Mason for its in-depth interview series Nashville Cats. The ongoing series highlights musicians and session singers who have played important roles in support of artists in either the recording studio or on concert tours.
As one of the most recorded guitarists in history, Mason estimates that he has created distinctive instrumental hooks on more than a thousand Billboard Top 10 hits spanning four decades. He has been named the Country Music Association’s Musician of the Year twice and the Academy of Country Music’s Guitarist of the Year a record 11 times.
Born in the small town of Van Wert, Ohio, Mason grew up in a musical family and taught himself to play guitar at age five. After appearing on local TV programs and playing in bands in Ohio, he moved to Nashville and began working with the well-regarded Don Kelley Band, playing several shows a week at the Stagecoach Lounge near Opryland. Chet Atkins saw Mason play and invited him to appear on his Grammy-winning 1985 album, Stay Tuned, which included contributions by top guitarists George Benson, Larry Carlton, Earl Klugh, Mark Knopfler, Steve Lukather and Dean Parks. Mason’s early sessions included recordings with Lee Greenwood, Dan Seals and Country Music Hall of Fame members Randy Travis and Keith Whitley. In the 1990s, as country music sales soared, Mason worked several sessions a day as one of the most in-demand session guitarists in Nashville. He played on hits by Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, Steve Wariner, Trisha Yearwood and Country Music Hall of Fame members Brooks & Dunn, Glen Campbell, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, George Jones, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs and George Strait.
In 2009, Mason won a Grammy for Country Instrumental of the Year for his work on Brad Paisley’s “Cluster Pluck,” and he played on Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country,” CMA Single of the Year in 2019. He also has performed on hits by contemporary artists Luke Combs, Josh Turner, Rascal Flatts, Darius Rucker, Carrie Underwood, Lee Ann Womack and Chris Young. Mason has recorded two albums of his own, and, as a songwriter, his compositions have been recorded by Lee Greenwood, Johnny Mathis, Collin Raye, Billie Joe Spears and Country Music Hall of Fame members Jim Ed Brown and the Browns, Conway Twitty and Keith Whitley.