Two for Tuesday: Chet Atkins

Last week, I featured Tommy Emmanuel, who was given the title “Certified Guitar Player” by Chet Atkins, who, being a wise guy, invented the distinction and granted it to himself. There are actually very few players so distinguished, and I thought “hey! That’s a great idea for a series!” So, for the next few weeks, I will be presenting music by the other CGP’s, starting with none other than Chet himself.

Chet’s picking style on the guitar was primarily inspired by Merle Travis, but he was also inspired by players such as Django Reinhardt, George Barnes, and Les Paul, with whom he did a number of albums in the Seventies and Eighties. A top record producer as well as an incredible player, he was one of the creators of the “Nashville Sound,” which replaced the “honky tonk” sound with a more sophisticated pop sound. As a player, he defied description: country, yes, but with many other influences, including rock, jazz, and pop. He collaborated with a number of artists, including Les Paul, Jerry Reed, Mark Knopfler, Merle Travis, and Tommy Emmanuel.

There are so many videos on YouTube that illustrate his versatility, and it was hard to select just two. The first here, “Three Little Words,” was written by Harry Ruby and Bert Kalmar in 1930 and was the basis for the movie of the same name with Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, and Vera-Ellen. (No doubt Chet heard the cover by Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France.) The second is a 1975 cover of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” a song popularized by 1973’s The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

So there you have it: Chet Atkins, your Two for Tuesday, November 20, 2012.

3 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Chet Atkins

  1. He was an incredible picker. I remember an interview with him where he mentioned his glued on fingernails flying off during a performance. Apparently he used them if he broke one of his own nails. go figure.


    1. Nail maintenance is critical to fingerstyle players, especially those who play on steel strings. I know some who grow them out and use clear nail polish on them, others build them up with silk and super glue, still others use false nails. Jazz players can usually get away with using the pads of their fingers…


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