The Early Years
The complete story
Leonard T. Zinn was born on December 27th, 1924 in Hanover, PA. The youngest of
ten children. Hanover is located just a few miles from Gettysburg and because of
that he often teases that he went to school with Abraham Lincoln.
Like most young boys of that day Leonard enjoyed sports like baseball, etc.
until that one eventful day when he heard the sweet sounds of Hawaiian Music
coming from an old radio his mother kept in her kitchen. He was about 12 years
old at the time. The musicians he listened to in those days were Dick McIntire,
Sam Koki, Andy Iona to name a few.
The sound of this, yet unknown, instrument haunted his mind and he said "I was hooked".
He knew then that he wanted to play that kind of music the rest of his life. He
set out on a quest to find out more about the instrument and it's music.
For a few months he checked around town to no avail, asking questions of people
like high school band directors or owners of music stores. He just could not
explain the sound to them.
One day a man who played in a local country music band came to the house, while
there, Leonard asked him about this music that was still on his mind and this
man knew what it was. He told Leonard that the instrument was a Hawaiian Steel
Guitar. Armed with this new information, he set out to learn more.
One day, while attending a local Strawberry Festival he saw three teenaged boys
playing Hawaiian Guitars. He asked lots of questions of these boys learning from
them that there was a local music store called "Harold Pratt Music Studio" where
Hawaiian Music was being taught.
Leonard was now 13 years of age and still longing to play this music. He went to
his mother and asked her if she thought it possible to take these music lessons.
She carefully explained that there was not enough household money, that could be
spared, for music lessons. There were still 6 children at home.
LT's father had passed away when Leonard was age 7. So, his mother working in a
restaurant and taking in laundry during the day had all she could handle to
provide for these children.
So, without his mothers knowledge Leonard approached the managers of Pratt's
Music Studio as to the cost of the weekly lessons. Mr. Pratt seeing the desire
of Leonard for this music came to visit Mrs. Zinn and explained that the lessons
were $1.00 a week and after sixty lessons the student could keep the guitar.
She, once again, explained her financial situation to Mr. Pratt. telling him she
simply could not afford lessons.
Seeing the hurt and disappointment in Leonard's eyes and knowing the desire he
had for lessons, Mr. Pratt told them to bring in whatever they could scrap up
each week and that Leonard could start the lessons.
So, it was, that Leonard mowed lawns and did odd jobs around town and with his
mother contributing a quarter or dime when she could, as well as, Mr. Pratt
allowing Leonard to work around the studio they somehow met the needed goal.
LT's 1st professional Hawaiian group he played with called "The Hawaiian Sharps"
Picture was taken in 1940
L to R: L. T. Zinn, Rita Auman, Virginia Pratt, Harold Pratt.
Now, Leonard was on his way practicing 18-20 hours a week. With the help of his
teachers Alex Hopoli and Clarence Williams, who knew how dedicated he was, they
worked very hard with Leonard over the next few years and he went on to playing
wherever he could and to teaching beginning students.
LT at 16 years in 1942
He won 1st place in the solo division at the I G L Festival. The
song he played was Sol Hoopii's arrangement of 12th Street Rag.
He practiced extra hard for this contest, driving his mother and family nutty
hearing the song over and over for several months.
Over the years as a student he would practice between 15 to 21 hours a
To this day LT encourages students to never give up their dreams and to
After a few more years, Leonard joined a Hawaiian music group called the
"Hawaiian Sharps". It was while playing a show with this group that he met
country music stars, Cowboy Copus and Hank Garland. Both of these gentlemen
approached LT and told him they liked his playing but, thought he needed to be
playing in a country music band, which at that time would pay better money.
101 RANCH BOYS
As luck would have it, around this time Leonard was approached by a
country western band called the "101 Ranch Boys" who were interested in having
him play steel guitar for them.
A very young LT
Being too young to join the musicians union he had to wait until
And then Leonard T. Zinn, affectionally known to his friends as simply "LT", became a member of that group.
The original 101 Ranch Boys names are George Long, Smoky Roberts, Andy Reynolds,
and Cliff Brown.
These men came to York, Pennsylvania from Kansas City, Kansas.
Their name was taken from the largest ranch and wild west show in the world, at
that time. Cliff Brown suggested the name as his mother was full blooded Ponca
Indian and worked on the ranch.
The 101 Ranch Boys went on to record for Columbia Records and
held their own radio show on ABC World Wide Network along with Mutual Radio
stations. While in this venue, he later learned, he inspired such great
steel guitar players such as; Jimmy Day, Bobby Black, Jodie Carver. LT is forever humbled by the
thought of that.
The Ranch Boys traveled throughout the USA and other countries working shows
with many famous country music bands such as; Rex Allen , Ken Maynard, Jimmy
Wakely, Ken Curtis, The Cisco Kid and Poncho and on special shows with Gene
They also played a show for President Harry S. Truman at Constitution Hall in
After leaving the Ranch Boys in 1956 Leonard went on to play with Tex Ritter,
Faron Young, Roy Rogers, and did short tours with George Morgan and Red
He was with Ernest Tubb and was a Texas Troubadour.
This is a road band LT had after the 101 Ranch Boys
"The Rockin' R Ranch Boys"
Max Kelly, Rocky Reidel, LT Zinn, name to come, Zeb Albright
LT with his Fender Quad Neck
In 1960 LT left the road and opened his own music store in his hometown,
Hanover, PA and went back to teaching until 1993. He was a arranger and composer
LT graduated from the Cleveland Conservatory of Music. And was President of the
Oahu Publishing Co's International Music League for many years. He helped
pioneer the Hawaiian Steel Guitar into the Country Music field.
During this time he became music director of a, well known, weekly country music
show on the east coast called "The Appalachian Jubilee" hosting such stars as
Randy Travis, Lou Dewitt, Phil Campbell, Randy Parton, and many others. This
show became a springboard for some up and coming country music talent.
After closing his music store, LT went back on the road.
LT is now an older gentleman who still loves his music and still travels doing
shows, seminars and working with some Nashville stars.
In 2000 he journeyed to old Burma with a missionary group. While there one of
the things he did was introduce the steel guitar to these people and demonstrate
how it was played. The people there seemed to really like the sound of
Hawaiian Music. He left the instrument, there at the school, in hopes that
someone would learn to play it. (Southeastern
Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Bangladesh and
LT attends the Aloha International Steel Guitar Convention each year held in
Winchester, IN. He plays on the show there and conducts seminars and lectures.
He travels to Hawaii to attend the Hawaiian Steel Guitar Association held there every 2nd year. While there,
he has had the opportunity to play with some of Hawaii's most outstanding
musicians and singers. To be able to to do that has fulfilled his lifelong
Currently LT attends Scotty's International Steel Guitar Convention held in St
Louis MO. every year around Labor Day. He is so thrilled to be staff Rhythm
Guitar player with Bobby Caldwell and the band.
Quote from LT "What a pleasure it is to be working with all of these great
musicians, Thanks Guys, Love Ya! "
In closing Leonard always gives all the glory and praise to Jesus Christ our
Lord and Savior. To the Glory of GOD the Father, who allows all these things to
Always, thanks his mother who is dearest to him.
Is forever grateful to his many friends.
Speedy West with LT
Keep checking back
more pictures coming soon