In 1885, in Honolulu, Joseph Kekuku, an 11-year-old student at Kamehameha School for Boys began experimenting with ways to make different musical sounds on his guitar. The story goes that while walking along the railroad tracks, he picked up a bolt and slid it across the strings, effecting the very first characteristic slur of steel guitar.
For the next 7 years, he taught himself to master producing the unique and sweet sounds with a hair comb, a tumbler, and finally, in the school shop, developed the smooth steel bar still used today. The instrument playing style Joseph Kekuku developed was Hawaiian steel guitar. Until his death in Boston in 1932, Kekuku toured the United States and most of Europe teaching and popularizing the Hawaiian steel guitar.
The popularity of steel guitar became firmly established in Hawai by the early 1900s, and soon after in the hole U.S music field, it had few teachers. Thus, in the '60s the art and technique of playing Hawaiian steel was almost lost.