Chester Burton Atkins, nicknamed by throngs of fans as “Mister Guitar,” changed the world of guitar music, developing and elevating an innovative guitar playing style that has inspired scores of musicians including Mark Knopfler, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, Earl Klugh, Tommy Emmanuel, Doc Watson, Lenny Breau, Jerry Reed and many, many others. His style and sound are often duplicated but none can completely capture the sound of Chet. He possessed a true love of the guitar and played as a young man for hours until sleep would overtake him.
Chet Atkins worked his way from low playing radio gigs to success as a recording artist and also became one of the most prolific record producers in history. As Vice President of RCA, located on music row in Nashville, Chet discovered and signed many artists and ushered in what was later to be known as the “Nashville Sound.” Artists included Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Dolly Parton, Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride and many others. Of course, fans loved not only his unique and captivating music but also his humble and down to earth demeanor. His last recording, “Solo Sessions”, was a treasure trove of Chet playing solo in his home basement recording studio, tracks which he had laid down over the years. The tapes were discovered by Chet Atkin’s grandson Jonathan and rhythm guitarist Paul Yandell.
Although Chet Atkins has passed, the legacy of his playing will never pass, and scores of young new players are seeing on YouTube and other online sources vintage video of Chet and his unique and special talents. He was an admirer of the music of Merle Travis, Les Paul and Django Reinhardt; they are influences that shaped him and fueled his creativity. Were he alive he might be uncomfortable with this heaping of praise, but as Lenny Breau once said, “There’s only one Chet Atkins.”
Tom Redmond, June 2019