Other Players

Happy Birthday to Mr Guitar

1

Chester Burton Atkins was born in abject poverty in Luttrell, TN on this day in 1924. He was a sickly lad with asthma. One day when he was 6 years old, his father walked down the road whistling a tune and never came back. He replaced broken strings on his little toy ukelele with wire from the frayed screen door. He was a shy lad that was fired many times from various musician's jobs. He and his young bride, Leona, moved many times to another new job at another radio station. When he was hired by the Carter Family, he promised Leona that if this does not work out, he would get a job tuning pianos, just like his Father did. Mr. Carter told him that the only thing he asked was that he just play guitar, and don't mess with my girls.

Fortunately, fate stepped in. The Carter Family made a guest appearance on The Grand Ole Opry, and the Opry offered a membership to them, but minus their guitar player, since guitar pickers are a dime a dozen in Nashville.Mr Carter refused, and said if we can't bring Chester, we won't come. No Chet? No Carter Family. Chet never forgot that.

From those very humble beginnings, and a very tough young adulthood, Chet Atkins rose to the top of the guitar world, and to the pinnacle of respect in the music business. He was known the world over as Mr Guitar.

Chet has always been my hero, and always will. Happy Birthday, Chet. We sure miss you.

2

Same here. I first discovered his musical legacy in 1995 when I bought the RCA Years box set on a whim (it looked interesting) and since then I've been a die-hard fan and have since collected over 90 of his LPs and bought a few Atkins sig models. Unfortunately, I never got see him perform live (wrote him a letter but he didn't respond...it was when his health started declining).

In 2016 I made a business trip into a great trip to Nashville and was able to visit the HOF and have my picture taken with Chet's statue.

3

I never did get to meet him either. I did write a fan letter when I was 10 years old or so, and he responded. I think it was typewritten by his secretary, but the wording was definitely his, and he did sign it. Somehow that letter was lost. Dang it.

4

I discovered Chet by accident, as a fourteen year old, my Canadian Dad settled in Liverpool after being in the Canadian airforce and opened a business selling domestic electrical goods and records. He gave me a single of the Everly Brothers Dream, I was fascinated by the opening A minor tremolo chord and he established it was Chet Atkins and sourced some records of Chet's from a relative in New Orleans, that was it and hooked on the Chet way since then. His style from those humble beginnings became so refined, respected and emulated and still the legacy goes on. I have a Nine year old Grandson learning guitar and loves his music, says he wants to play just like that"""".I was lucky enough to see him walking about Bristol UK many years ago before a brief concert and said hello and got a smile"" no Limo or minders, regular guy.

5

That's a great story in the OP, Richard. I did not know that.

Great stories from everyone. I discovered Chet through the Hee Haw TV show. I used to watch with my dad. I have always been in awe of finger pickers. Those guys can actually play guitar without any backing and still sound great. Like Richard, Bear, Taffy .....etc.

6

Happy Birthday Mr Atkins Sir!

I have my dad to thank for getting me into Chet too,that was way back in the late 70's early 80's !

And ya know what,i still can't play like him!

Got the 1952 Galloping Guitar album on as i type.

8

I was 13, my mom bought me the More Country Guitar lp and I was hooked. There'll never be another quite like him.RIP

9

I never did get to meet him either. I did write a fan letter when I was 10 years old or so, and he responded. I think it was typewritten by his secretary, but the wording was definitely his, and he did sign it. Somehow that letter was lost. Dang it.

– Richard Hudson

Similar story here, Richard. I had written a fan letter during my teens and Chet responded with a brief (typed) letter and autographed photo. My son came across the letter and photo in an old box of stuff sored in my attic (20 years ago???). He had them framed and gave it to me for Christmas. It now hangs in my guitar room.

Around 1954 (???) my older sister worked in a record store and bought me "Stringin' Along with Chet Atkins". My first exposure to Chet and he became my instant hero. I decided that I would learn to play "just like him"....... (That part didn't quite work out....!!!)

10

Stringin' Along With Chet Atkins was also my first of many Chet albums to follow. I have spent many mesmerizing hours listening to those recordings.

I am so happy your son found the letter. Thanks for sharing the memories.

11

I don't think I can remember a time when I didn't know the name Chet Atkins, even though it took me well into the 70s before I considered myself a fan. I remember hearing his cover of "Snowbird" sometime about then and thought it was lovely. Then there was a tune called "Sunrise." Seems like I heard that every morning on the radio that year. I only learned decades later that that was none other than Himself playing it.

Still later, there were his appearances on A Prairie Home Companion. By then I was a die hard fan and had to tune in.

All my early finger picker heroes led me to Chet Atkins; Happy Traum-->Doc Watson-->Merle Travis-->Chet.

12

Been a fan of Chet since I first heard the single Guitar Country (with the Anita Kerr Singers) on the radio on the local rock station. I admired Gretsches [under glass] in Toronto for years and finally got a '64 Gent in the early '90's. Went to the '94 CAAS Convention and was fortunate enough to meet & briefly chat with Chet and got a pic with him.

For me, what's always stood out with his playing isn't simply his command of his picking but his thoughtful and musically mesmerizing interpretation of a song's lyric, particularly ballads. The melody line in his playing has always been absolutely superb and that treatment is what I always strive for in my playing.

IMO, Chet will always be considered the finest guitar player ever.

13
Music = Emotion Chet = Music Chet = Emotion

I discovered Chet and his music when I was studying guitar from my late master; since then everything has changed for me, the biggest passion is the guitar !!! Thanks for being there, Chet!!!!!

14

I grew up admiring Chet, I was instantly mesmerized by his unique fingerpicking. My parents and grandparents were huge fans of Hee Haw, and The Grand Ole Opry, Chet made appearances on both of those shows fairly regularly. I saw an interview where Chet was asked how he came to play the way he did. He replied "well I grew up kind of poor, we didn't have much money to hire musicians. So I started playing around, and found that I could play the bass line with my thumb, fill in the piano and ride a melody on top, it's not particularly difficult ". I think that many of us have discovered that it actually is very difficult to play Mr. Atkins finger style! I was extremely saddened when Chet Atkins passed away, it felt like the end of an era, an era of real musicians. Many young people today don't want to take the time to learn how to play the guitar, and spend the many many hours of practice with sore fingertips . Of course there are many exceptions. I read that industry wide, guitar sales are down 40%, as techno music equipment sales have sored, sad.


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