Chet (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001)
Today marks the tenth anniversary of Chet Atkins’ death.
Chet Atkins was one of the most influential guitar players of all time. A member of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, he was a pioneer of the so-called “Nashville Sound”, a smoother, more fluid style of country music. Strongly influenced by Merle Travis (the father of “Travis picking”), Atkins further developed his right-hand picking technique to become a guitar virtuoso.
In addition to recording over eighty studio record albums, he was a prolific producer of recordings for many other artists including the likes of Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers.
Here is what Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel had to say about Chet Atkins in a recent interview with Acoustic Guitar magazine:
“I was eleven years old… I wrote a letter to Chet. I remember telling him my name, and what I did, and that I was a fan. On the envelope, I addressed it to ‘Chet Atkins, Nashville, America.’ It got to him, and he answered it! I’ll never forget, I came home from school and my mother said, ‘Put your bag down and go into your room, there’s something on your bed for you.’ There’s this big brown envelope, I open it, and inside was a black and white photo of Chet with his Gretsch, and he’s wearing a Perry Como-style cardigan, his hair looking perfect. He signed it ‘Best Wishes to Tommy, from Chet.’ I couldn’t believe it.”
“It made me think that if a boy from nowhere could write to the greatest instrumentalist of all time, and get a reply, then anything is possible.”
“… Years later, I was around my friend’s place and he recorded me playing some things by Chet and by Jerry Reed, and he sent the tape to Chet – without telling me! So I get this handwritten letter on Chet’s office stationary: ‘I received your tape and I played it for Lenny Breau. We were impressed,” and ‘Here’s my office number, look me up when you are in the States,’ which was all I needed to light a fire under me.”
I was hoping to find video of Wendell Ferguson playing “Fret No More”, his excellent tribute to Chet. I didn’t find that, but I did find Wendell playing a medley of Chet Atkins’ tunes at Hugh’s Room in Toronto:
You can read more about Chet Atkins life and accomplishments on Wikipedia.