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CHESTER BURTON ATKINS (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001), known as "MR. GUITAR" and "THE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN", was an American musician, occasional vocalist, songwriter, and record producer , who along with Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson , among others, created the country music style that came to be known as the Nashville sound , which expanded country music's appeal to adult pop music fans. He was primarily known as a guitarist. He also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele.

Atkins' signature picking style was inspired by Merle Travis . Other major guitar influences were Django Reinhardt , George Barnes , Les Paul , and, later, Jerry Reed . His distinctive picking style and musicianship brought him admirers inside and outside the country scene, both in the United States and abroad. Atkins spent most of his career at RCA Victor and produced records for the Browns , Hank Snow , Porter Wagoner , Norma Jean , Dolly Parton , Dottie West , Perry Como , Floyd Cramer , Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
, the Everly Brothers , Eddy Arnold , Don Gibson , Jim Reeves , Jerry Reed , Skeeter Davis , Waylon Jennings , and many others.

Among many honors, Atkins received 14 Grammy Awards and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award . He also received nine Country Music Association awards for Instrumentalist of the Year. He was inducted into the Rock an old pistol and some chores for a guitar when he was nine. He stated in his 1974 autobiography, "We were so poor and everybody around us was so poor that it was the forties before anyone even knew there had been a depression." Forced to relocate to Fortson, Georgia , outside of Columbus , to live with his father because of a critical asthma condition, Atkins was a sensitive youth who made music his obsession. Because of his illness, he was forced to sleep in a straight-back chair to breathe comfortably. On those nights, he played his guitar until he fell asleep holding it, a habit which lasted his whole life. While living in Fortson, he attended the historic Mountain Hill School. He returned in the 1990s to play a series of charity concerts to save the school from demolition. Stories have been told about the very young Chet, who, when a friend or relative would come to visit and play guitar, would crowd in and put his ear so close to the instrument that it became difficult for the visitor to play.

Atkins became an accomplished guitarist while he was in high school. He used the restroom in the school to practice, because it gave better acoustics. His first guitar had a nail for a nut and was so bowed that only the first few frets could be used. He later purchased a semi-acoustic electric guitar and amp, but he had to travel many miles to find an electrical outlet, since his home didn't have electricity.

Later in life, he lightheartedly gave himself (along with John Knowles , Marcel Dadi , Tommy Emmanuel , Steve Wariner , and Jerry Reed ) the honorary degree CGP ("Certified Guitar
Guitar
Player"). In 2011, his daughter Merle Atkins Russell bestowed the CGP degree on his longtime sideman Paul Yandell . She then declared no more CGPs would be allowed by the Atkins estate.

His half-brother Jim, was a successful guitarist who worked with the Les Paul
Les Paul
Trio in New York.

Atkins did not have a strong style of his own until 1939, when (while still living in Georgia) he heard Merle Travis picking over WLW radio. This early influence dramatically shaped his unique playing style. Whereas Travis' right hand used his index finger for the melody and thumb for bass notes, Atkins expanded his right-hand style to include picking with his first three fingers, with the thumb on bass.

Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
was a ham radio general class licensee. Formerly using the call sign WA4CZD, he obtained the vanity call sign W4CGP in 1998 to include the CGP designation. He was a member of the American Radio Relay League .

EARLY MUSICAL CAREER

After dropping out of high school in 1942, Atkins landed a job at WNOX-AM radio in Knoxville , where he played fiddle and guitar with the singer Bill Carlisle and the comic Archie Campbell and became a member of the station's Dixieland Swingsters, a small swing instrumental combo. After three years, he moved to WLW-AM in Cincinnati, Ohio , where Merle Travis had formerly worked.

After six months, he moved to Raleigh and worked with Johnnie and Jack before heading for Richmond, Virginia , where he performed with Sunshine Sue Workman. Atkins' shy personality worked against him, as did the fact that his sophisticated style led many to doubt he was truly "country". He was fired often, but was soon able to land another job at another radio station on account of his unique playing ability.

Atkins and Jethro Burns (of Homer and Jethro
Homer and Jethro
) married twin sisters, Leona and Lois Johnson, who sang as Laverne and Fern Johnson, the Johnson Sisters. Leona Atkins outlived her husband by eight years, dying in 2009 at the age of 85.

Travelling to Chicago, Atkins auditioned for Red Foley , who was leaving his star position on WLS-AM 's _ National Barn Dance _ to join the Grand Ole Opry . Atkins made his first appearance at the Opry in 1946 as a member of Foley's band. He also recorded a single for Nashville-based Bullet Records that year. That single, " Guitar
Guitar
Blues", was fairly progressive, including a clarinet solo by the Nashville dance band musician Dutch McMillan, with Owen Bradley on piano. He had a solo spot on the Opry, but when that was cut, Atkins moved on to KWTO in Springfield, Missouri . Despite the support of executive Si Siman , however, he soon was fired for not sounding "country enough".

SIGNING WITH RCA VICTOR

While working with a Western band in Denver, Colorado , Atkins came to the attention of RCA Victor . Siman had been encouraging Steve Sholes to sign Atkins, as his style (with the success of Merle Travis as a hit recording artist) was suddenly in vogue. Sholes, A"> Atkins's Gretsch Country Gentleman, model G6122, 1962

In addition to recording, Atkins was a design consultant for Gretsch , which manufactured a popular Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
line of electric guitars from 1955–1980. He became manager of RCA Victor's Nashville studio, eventually inspiring and seeing the completion of the legendary RCA Studio B , the first studio built specifically for the purpose of recording on the now-famous Music Row .

PERFORMER AND PRODUCER

When Sholes took over pop production in 1957—a result of his success with Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
—he put Atkins in charge of RCA Victor's Nashville division. With country music record sales declining; as rock and roll became more popular, Atkins and Bob Ferguson took their cue from Owen Bradley and eliminated fiddles and steel guitar as a means of making country singers appeal to pop fans. This became known as the Nashville sound which Atkins said was a label created by the media attached to a style of recording done during that period to keep country (and their jobs) viable.

Atkins used the Jordanaires
Jordanaires
and a rhythm section on hits such as Jim Reeves 's "Four Walls " and "He\'ll Have to Go " and Don Gibson 's " Oh Lonesome Me " and "Blue Blue Day". The once-rare phenomenon of having a country hit cross over to pop success became more common. Bradley and he had essentially put the producer in the driver's seat, guiding an artist's choice of material and the musical background.

Atkins made his own records, which usually visited pop standards and jazz , in a sophisticated home studio, often recording the rhythm tracks at RCA and adding his solo parts at home, refining the tracks until the results satisfied him. Guitarists of all styles came to admire various Atkins albums for their unique musical ideas and in some cases experimental electronic ideas. In this period, he became known internationally as "Mister Guitar", inspiring an album, _Mister Guitar
Guitar
_, engineered by both Bob Ferris and Bill Porter , Ferris's replacement. Atkins listening as Bill Porter adjusts a mix in RCA's Nashville studio

At the end of March 1959, Porter took over as chief engineer at RCA's Nashville studio, in the space now known as Studio B. (At the time, only one RCA studio was in Nashville, with no letter designation.) Porter soon helped Atkins get a better reverberation sound from the studio's German effects device, an EMT plate reverb . With his golden ear , Porter found the studio's acoustics to be problematic, and he devised a set of acoustic baffles to hang from the ceiling, then selected positions for microphones based on resonant room modes . The sound of the recordings improved significantly, and the studio achieved a string of successes. The Nashville sound became more dynamic . In later years, when Bradley asked how he achieved his sound, Atkins told him "it was Porter." Porter described Atkins as respectful of musicians when recording—if someone was out of tune, he would not single that person out by name. Instead, he would say something like, "we got a little tuning problem ... Everybody check and see what's going on." If that did not work, Atkins would instruct Porter to turn the offending player down in the mix. When Porter left RCA in late-1964, Atkins said, "the sound was never the same, never as great."

Atkins' trademark "Atkins style" of playing uses the thumb and first two or sometimes three fingers of the right hand. He developed this style from listening to Merle Travis, occasionally on a primitive radio. He was sure no one could play that articulately with just the thumb and index finger (which was exactly how Travis played), and he assumed it required the thumb and two fingers—and that was the style he pioneered and mastered.

He enjoyed jamming with fellow studio musicians, and they were asked to perform at the Newport Jazz
Jazz
Festival in 1960. That performance was cancelled because of rioting, but a live recording of the group (_ After the Riot at Newport _) was released. Atkins performed by invitation at the White House
White House
for every U.S. President from John F. Kennedy through to George H. W. Bush. Atkins was a member of the Million Dollar Band during the 1980s. He is also well known for his song " Yankee Doodle Dixie", in which he played " Yankee Doodle " and "Dixie " simultaneously, on the same guitar.

Before his mentor Sholes died in 1968, Atkins had become vice president of RCA's country division. In 1987, he told _Nine-O-One Network_ magazine that he was "ashamed" of his promotion: "I wanted to be known as a guitarist and I know, too, that they give you titles like that in lieu of money. So beware when they want to make you vice president." He had brought Waylon Jennings , Willie Nelson , Connie Smith , Bobby Bare , Dolly Parton , Jerry Reed , and John Hartford to the label in the 1960s and inspired and helped countless others. He took a considerable risk during the mid-1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement sparked violence throughout the South, by signing country music's first African-American singer, Charley Pride , who sang rawer country than the smoother music Atkins had pioneered.

Atkins' biggest hit single came in 1965, with "Yakety Axe", an adaptation of " Yakety Sax ", by his friend, the saxophonist Boots Randolph . He rarely performed in those days and eventually hired other RCA producers, such as Bob Ferguson and Felton Jarvis , to lessen his workload.

LATER CAREER

In the 1970s, Atkins became increasingly stressed by his executive duties. He produced fewer records, but could still turn out hits such as Perry Como 's 1973 pop hit "And I Love You So ". He recorded extensively with close friend and fellow picker Jerry Reed, who had become a hit artist in his own right. A 1973 diagnosis of colon cancer , however, led Atkins to redefine his role at RCA, to allow others to handle administration while he went back to his first love, the guitar, often recording with Reed or even Jethro Burns from Homer and Jethro (his brother-in-law) after Homer died in 1971.

By the late-1970s, RCA decided to remove Atkins from his production duties and replace him with younger men. He also felt stifled because the record company would not let him branch into jazz. His mid-1970s collaborations with one of his influences, Les Paul
Les Paul
, _Chester _Chester the classical guitar selections included on almost all his albums were, for many American artists working in the field today, the first classical guitar they ever heard. He recorded smooth jazz guitar still played on American airwaves today.

Atkins continued performing in the 1990s, but his health declined after he was diagnosed again with cancer in 1996. He died on June 30, 2001, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, ten days after his 77th birthday. His memorial service was held at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. He was buried at Harpeth Hills Memory Gardens in Nashville.

A stretch of Interstate 185 in southwest Georgia (between LaGrange and Columbus ) is named " Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
Parkway". This stretch of interstate runs through Fortson, where Atkins spent much of his childhood.

In 2002, Atkins was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . His award was presented by Marty Stuart and Brian Setzer and accepted by Atkins's grandson, Jonathan Russell. The following year, Atkins ranked number 28 in Country Music Television 's "40 Greatest Men of Country Music".

At the age of 13, the future jazz guitarist Earl Klugh was captivated watching Atkins's guitar playing on _The Perry Como Show._ Similarly, he was a big influence on Doyle Dykes . Atkins also inspired Drexl Jonez and Tommy Emmanuel.

Clint Black 's album _Nothin\' but the Taillights _ includes the song "Ode to Chet", which includes the lyrics "'Cause I can win her over like Romeo did Juliet, if I can only show her I can almost pick that legato lick like Chet" and "It'll take more than Mel Bay 1, 2, & 3 if I'm ever gonna play like CGP." Atkins played guitar on the track. At the end of the song, Black and Atkins had a brief conversation.

Chet's song "Jam Man" is currently used in commercials for Esurance.

The opening guitar licks to the Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert
song " Only Prettier " sound very similar to Atkins's guitar-picking style.

In 1967, a tribute song, "Chet's Tune", was produced for his birthday, with contributions by a long list of RCA Victor artists, including Eddy Arnold, Connie Smith, Jerry Reed, Willie Nelson, Hank Snow, and others. The song was written by the Nashville songwriter Cy Coben , a friend of Atkins's. The single reached number 38 on the country charts.

In 2009, Steve Wariner released an album entitled _My Tribute to Chet Atkins_. One song from that record, "Producer's Medley", featured Wariner's recreation of several famous songs which Atkins both produced and performed. "Producer's Medley" won the Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2010.

In November 2011, _Rolling Stone_ ranked Atkins number 21 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

DISCOGRAPHY

Further information: Chet Atkins discography

INDUSTRY AWARDS

COUNTRY MUSIC ASSOCIATION

* 1967 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1968 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1969 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1981 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1982 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1983 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1984 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1985 Instrumentalist of the Year * 1988 Instrumentalist of the Year

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM

* Inducted in 1973

GRAMMY AWARDS

* 1971 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Jerry Reed – _Me and Jerry_ * 1972 Best Country Instrumental Performance – "Snowbird" * 1975 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Merle Travis – _The Atkins-Travis Traveling Show_ * 1976 Best Country Instrumental Performance – "The Entertainer" * 1977 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Les Paul
Les Paul
– _Chester and Lester_ * 1982 Best Country Instrumental Performance – _Country After All These Years_ * 1986 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Mark Knopfler – "Cosmic Square Dance" * 1991 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Mark Knopfler – "So Soft, Your Goodbye" * 1991 Best Country Vocal Collaboration with Mark Knopfler – "Poor Boy Blues" * 1993 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Jerry Reed – _Sneakin' Around_ * 1993 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award ' * 1994 Best Country Instrumental Performance with Asleep at the Wheel , Eldon Shamblin , Johnny Gimble , Marty Stuart , Reuben "Lucky Oceans" Gosfield -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em; list-style-type: decimal;">

* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 10 – Tennessee Firebird: American Country Music Before and After Elvis. " (audio). _ Pop Chronicles _. University of North Texas Libraries . * ^ _A_ _B_ " Country Music Television biography.". Cmt.com. Retrieved March 28, 2008. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ Atkins, Chet; Neely, Bill (1974). "Country Gentleman". Chicago. Harry Regnery. ISBN 0-8092-9051-0 . * ^ Rush, Dianne Samms (October 23, 1994). "Chet Plays; Gatlin Lives". _Lakeland Ledger_. Lakeland, Florida. p. 9C. Retrieved July 6, 2012. * ^ Atkins, Chet; Neely, Bill (1974). "Country Gentleman". Chicago. Harry Regnery. p. 52. ISBN 0-8092-9051-0 . * ^ Halberstam, David (1961). iner notes. _Chet Atkins' Workshop_. RCA Victor LSP-2232. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ Atkins, Chet; Cochran, Russ (2003). "Me and My Guitars". Milwaukee: Hal Leonard. ISBN 0-634-05565-8 . * ^ Atkins, Chet; Neely, Bill. (1974). "Country Gentleman". Chicago. Harry Regnery. pp. 61–62. ISBN 0-8092-9051-0 . * ^ \'Interview of Chet Atkins\' on YouTube
YouTube
* ^ Freeman, Jon (November 22, 2011). "A Guitarist Paul Yandell Passes". Music Row. Retrieved July 6, 2012. * ^ * Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Archived October 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine . * ^ ARRLWeb: "Mister Guitar", Chet Atkins, W4CGP, SK Archived September 20, 2005, at the Wayback Machine . * ^ "Chet Atkins\' Widow Dies". _Country Standard Time_. October 22, 2009. Retrieved October 29, 2011. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ " Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
Dies" _Rolling Stone_. Accessed on March 28, 2008. * ^ "Opry Timeline – 1950s". Retrieved July 2, 2012. * ^ Allmusic entry for _Welcome to My World_, Jim Reeves 1996 box set, Bear Family Records * ^ Allmusic biography of Don Gibson * ^ Ballou, Glen (1998). _Handbook for Sound Engineers_. Focal Press. p. 1154. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ McClellan, John; Bratic, Deyan (2004). _Chet Atkins in Three Dimensions_. 2. Mel Bay Publications. pp. 149–152. ISBN 0-7866-5877-0 . * ^ Nine-O-One Interview, Nine-O-One Network Magazine,December 1987, p.10-11 * ^ _A_ _B_ "Chet Atkins", Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Accessed on March 28, 2008. * ^ Official Web Site of Chet Atkins. Accessed on August 27, 2014. * ^ "Biography – Chet Atkins". _Rolling Stone_. Accessed on May 10, 2008. * ^ "Obituary" Archived March 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine ., CNN, July 2, 2001 Accessed June 21, 2008 * ^ "Guitars Gently Weep as Nashville Pays Tribute to Chet Atkins". _The New York Times_. July 4, 2001. Retrieved September 19, 2016. * ^ Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
at Find a Grave. Accessed November 24, 2010 * ^ " Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
Parkway Bill Resolution.". Archived from the original on January 28, 2005. Retrieved January 9, 2012. * ^ "Performing Arts Center, Buffalo State University". Buffalostate.edu. Retrieved February 27, 2012. * ^ Tommy Emmanuel official website biography. Retrieved September 2009. * ^ Billboard, June 3, 1967, p. 41. * ^ McClellan, John; Bratic, Deyan. _ Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins
in Three Dimensions: 50 Years of Legendary Guitar_, vol. 1. Pacific, MO: Mel Bay Publications. pp. 47–49. * ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). _Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008_. Record Research. p. 392. ISBN 0-89820-177-2 . * ^ "Chet Atkins". _Rolling Stone_.

FURTHER READING

* Kienzle, Rich (1998). "Chet Atkins". _The Encyclopedia of Country Music_. Paul Kingsbury, ed. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 26–27.

EXTERNAL LINKS

_ Wikimedia Commons has

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