Van Shipley – Guitar Filmi Tune “You Have to Love Me”

VanShipley78_AIt’s a busy time for me, and while I’ll have some great music and special announcements coming soon, I am happy to know that there are some fine curators jumping into the game at Excavated Shellac this autumn. For the first of two guest posts, we have a selection from Stuart Ellis, the man behind the phenomenal Radiodiffusion Internasionaal blog. If you haven’t combed through the archives of international 45s at Radiodiffusion, you must do so. The sounds are varied, thought-provoking, and rare. Stuart is also behind the terrific Sublime Frequences release Bollywood Steel Guitar. That fact alone should be a perfect introduction to his post… – JW

The earliest known report of anyone playing slide guitar was of Gabriel Davion, a native of India who had been kidnapped by Portuguese sailors and was brought to Hawaii in 1876. Of course, Indian string instruments, like the gottuvadhyam and the vichitra veena use a slide and are known to have existed since the 11th century. But it was not until Ernest Ka’ai and his Royal Hawaiian Troubadours toured in 1919 that the slide guitar was introduced to India.

Most people agree that Van Shipley was the first electric guitarist in India and the first to record instrumental versions of film songs, beginning sometime in the early 1950s. Van was born in the city of Lucknow in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. When most people hear his name, they say “But that’s not an Indian name!” Well, that’s because not everyone in India is Hindu. Shipley was Methodist.

Inspired by his mother, who played the sitar, Shipley took to music at a young age. His first instrument was the violin. He attended Saharanpur to study Indian Classical music. There, he studied under Ustad Bande Hassan Khan and his son Ustad Zinda Hassan Khan, who were both famous Khyal singers from Northern India. At the same time, he took lessons in western music from an American identified as Dr. Wizer.

Shipley then returned to Lucknow to attend college, where he became involved with All India Radio. After college, he went to the city of Pune to work for the Prabhat Film Company before moving to the center of India’s film industry, Bombay (Mumbai). It was there that he caught the attention of producer and director Raj Kapoor, who spotted him performing a stage. Kapoor enlisted Shipley to play violin on the soundtrack for “Barsaat” (Rain) in 1949. The following year, Shipley added his electric guitar to a dream sequence in “Awaara” (The Tramp), which brought him to the attention of The Gramophone Co. of India. In 1955, Shipley teamed up with accordionist Enoch Daniels, whom he had met while working for the Prabhat Film Company in Pune. This musical partnership ultimately lasted for many years.

Shipley set off the steel guitar craze in India. Other steel guitar players from the 78 era include Batuk Nandy, Brij Bhushan Kabra, Kazi Aniruddha, Mohon Bhattacharya, Nalin Mazumdar, Robin Paul, S. Hazarasingh, Sujit Nath and Sunil Ganguly. But most of these guitarists only recorded Tagore songs, with only a few (Kazi Aniruddha and S. Hazarasingh) recording Filmi tunes (Sunil Ganguly and Batuk Nandy would start doing film songs in the 60s and the 70s, respectively).

One distinction that set Shipley apart was that he played an eight string guitar, which he had designed and built to give him the drone sound that was more common in Indian classical music than in the Film songs. Almost all of the other Indian steel guitarists played a National Dual Six Console guitar. Shipley also designed his own electric violin as well, which he dubbed the ‘Gypsy Violin’ and used on many of his later records.

Shipley’s first album, The Man with The Golden Guitar, a title that stuck with him the rest of his career, was released in 1962. He would go on to release an album every year until 1982, as well as a dozen or so EPs. He also toured the world, playing shows in Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean Islands, Suriname, Guyana and the U.S., including the cities of New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo, and Detroit. Besides recording, Shipley acted in a few films as well, including 1964s “Cha Cha Cha.”

Shipley died on March 8, 2008 of a heart attack at his home in Mumbai. His daughter Ingrid is an artist and musician who lives in New York, and his nephew Valentine is a singer/songwriter in India.

Van Shipley – Guitar Filmi Tune from “You Have to Love Me”

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: GE. 8303
Matrix Number: CEI 42414-IC

Thanks to Derek Taylor at Bagatellen for the information.

22 thoughts on “Van Shipley – Guitar Filmi Tune “You Have to Love Me”

  1. Pardon the slightly off-subject response – I am intrigued by the assertion above that Brij Bhushan Kabra (born June 26 1937) belongs to the “steel guitar 78 era”; the first recording I know of him is the Dum Dum HMV LP ECSD 2342, recorded when he was 29 (1966/67), which is pure Hindustani Classical – so I’d be very interested to know of any earlier recordings of this magnificent musician!

    1. Hello Tony,

      Well, I have to admit that I am not familiar with Brij Bhushan Kabra. I went back thru my notes and found this:

      “The performance of Hindustani classical music on Hawaiian Guitar was first popularised by Sri Nalin Mazumdar,Sri Batuk Nandi and Sri Brij Bhushan Kabra in India.” []

      “The credit goes to Pt. Brij Bhushan Kabra ji, for making the Hawaiian Guitar very popular in the Galaxy of Indian Classical Music.” []


      1. Hi Stuart
        Thanks – I’d never heard of Sri Nalin Mazumdar or Sri Batuk Nandi, and re the former it seems hard to see if he actually recorded. Batuk Nandi can be heard on Spotify in relatively recent stereo recordings with both electric and acoustic slide, playing among other things instrumental Rabindrasangeet (ie songs of Tagore)truly exquisitely, in lush arrangements. Brij Bhushan Kabra is a purely classical musician, perhaps most well-known in the West for his participation the The Call of The Valley together with Hariprasad Chaurasia and Shivkumar Sharma in 1968, but in fact among the deeply musical members of the classical tradition, irrespective of chosen instrument, eschewing demonstrative virtuosity for its own sake, and, to my mind, today disproportionately overshadowed by his juniors such as Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Debashish Bhattacharya.

      2. A quick self-correction – Batuk Nandy only plays only electric, not acoustic, at least on what is to be heard on Spotify.

  2. Hey there E.S., having some trouble with this track – first I seemed to only get 0:12 of it, now I can’t get it at all. Anyone else have similar?

    E.S. rules!

  3. Hi John –

    Sorry, my file host appears to be doing some maintenance and it’s gone on way too long. Hopefully everything will be back soon.


  4. Van Shipley was a great steel guitarist and performer. He was ahead, in my opinion, of others in his era, and one of my earlier influences. Good to hear this tune which I had not before. Any more?


  5. What I am writing here may not be fully relevant with the subject, but it may provide information regarding Late Batuk Nandy. I started learning and listening Steel Guitar from my boyhood in the year 1981. Till today I listen Electric Steel Guitar regularly. I listened to many players of Steel Guitars of Indian sub-continent and outside. In my opinion (of course with full respect to all the other Steel Guitarists) Batuk Nandy is the best of all. He played Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Gitee, Modern Bengali Songs and Bengali and Hindi Film songs. He is accurate, exceptional, successful in expressing the fillings contained in a song sung in vocal. In my opinion, so far, only Batuk Nandy could use the full potential in the instrument. It was my great opprotunity to talk to him in the year 1986 when he came to my city for performing guitar. He built his own Lap Steel with a foreign pickup. He had many very high quality Amplifiers. He had his own Bar made with fully different specifications (both for size and metal). Above all, position of his left hand holding the Bar while playing on was different from other Steel guitarists. Despite controlling the pressure on the string(s) he maintained almost pin-point accuracy even playing the complex set of notes. Application of ornaments was very very selective and controlled. Picking was weighty and very very soft where required. Overall sophistication and artistic view are clear in his playing.

    Kanak Kanti Sen

  6. Hi Mr Kay Das

    It is very nice to get some reply from you. I listened to some of your music before and I have listened two/three days back from your web. Very nice and dreamy playing. Thank you.

    I am Bangladeshi not Indian. A few months back I visited India and went to Late Batuk Nandy’s house in Kolkata. It was like my pilgrimage. The beloved wife of Batuk Nandy expired first and a few days after that Batuk Nandy had a stroke. He died after a few months. At this moment I can’t remember the year of his expiry. He expired 10/11 years back. The only son of Ms and Mr Nandy, Mr Nilanjan Nandy sold his portion of the house (the ground floor) to another man. I shall try to give you more information about Batuk Nandy later on. One thing I can say with full confidence that no one in the world could or can play like him. His playing was totally different. No school of Steel Guitar has same type of playing style. The weight of his playing, his glissando and slido are totally exceptional. His performance was more pleasant and artistic than any Steel player or most of the vocalist. His expiry ended an era. No body could picked up his style. It is a matter of great sorrow that most of us do not know that we could not understand his playing, even in the cultural capital of India- Kolkata.

    I had the opportunity to listen/see his live performance. It was a great experiance. He played Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Gitee, Bengali and Hindi songs; he also played some effects. How far a musician can go? The programme was to feel about how far a musican can go with an instrument like Steel Guitar? In my life, so far, I did not listen to any instrument player who could express the feelings in a song so successfully, so accurately and so exceptionally. Some of my non-musician friends say, we listen some songs played by Batuk Nandy since those are full of expressions, we shall not listen to the songs in vocal because those are very dull.

    Good day,


    Kanak Kanti Sen

  7. undoubtedly, there are so many peoples like me who after listening instrumental hindi filmi songs on vividhbharti and radio ceylon ,were inspired to play steel guitar.all players of this instruement have their own styles and admirers. but the instument badly needs a revival in india.sincere efforts are required to make their songs freely availble to the new generation.

  8. The ability of this instrument to express the feelings contained in Indian light to semi-classical music has not been recognized by the famous musicians of the day. One reason may be that the players of this instruments in Indian sub-continent is rare. Rare in that sense that the most players of this instrument now a days can’t maintain the high expressive quality in their playing. The instrument is very easy to learn, but it takes very very long time to master it. I think, apart from mastering, there is another aesthetic side, i.e., sound shaping. Building a high quality electric Hawaiian Guitar for Indian light or semi-classical music requires many skills by the builder. But it is averagely built. Another reason may be that the instrument has little value in accompaniment. So, no one like to master it and enter into the professional world with this instrument since, the professional viability is poor.

  9. Yes, Lap Steel or Hawaiian Steel Guitar is the favorite instrument of many people around the world. But, lack of high quality (in playing this instrument) is the main cause of its decline in the musical world.

  10. Dear Sir,
    Van Shipley was not the first steel guitarist to play bollywood tunes. It was rather great guitarist of Kolkata, late. Sujit Nath who made the instrument popular in Kolkata ( formerly Calcutta) and recorded some old Bollywood film tunes of that time. One such Long Playing 78 RPM record was published under Columbia brand.

    There was another record where the famous and late. Dakshinamohan Tagore and Late. Sujit Nath, together made a complete indian classical record… in that 78 rpm record published by His Master’s Voice Late. Dakhshina Mohan Tagore played the Dilruba and Late. Sujit Nath played Indian Classical with the Hawaiian Steel Guitar.

    One side of the record was Kirvaani and the other side was Khamaj.

    As far as my knowledge goes, Late.Batuk Nundy was a student of the great guitarist Late. Sujit Nath.

  11. Van Shipley was not the one who introduced Electric Hawaiian Steel Guitar to Indian music.
    It was rather Mr. Sujit Nath who introduced Hawaiian Steel Guitar in India. Check the records.

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