Posts Tagged ‘Chet Atkins’

Chet Atkins: CGP Exhibit Presents New Programs in March

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Update:

Check the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Programming Calendar page for the latest special programs added in March.

RECENTLY FROM THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM:

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM TO CELEBRATE THE LEGACY OF CHET ATKINS WITH TWO MARCH PROGRAMS

Programs are in support of the exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company

NASHVILLE, Tenn., February 23, 2012 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will present two special programs next month in support of the exhibition Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player.

On March 3, The Life and Times of Chet Atkins by Dr. Richard Hood will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. Dr. Hood, a Chet Atkins scholar and finger-style guitarist, will trace Atkins’ life from his rural childhood to his career as a legendary guitarist and producer.  Ben Hall and Eddie Pennington, both winners of the National Thumbpicking Championship, will perform selections from the Chet Atkins catalog. Pennington will also present a thumbpick guitar demonstration on March 4, at 1:00 p.m. in the museum’s SunTrust Community Room.

On March 17, Chet Atkins at Studio B, a panel discussion featuring some of Atkins’ closest associates, will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. RCA crossover artists Bobby Bare (“Detroit City”) and Jim Ed Brown (“The Three Bells”), background singer Delores Dinning Edgin, studio guitarist Ray Edenton, and hit songwriter John D. Loudermilk (“Abilene”) will share stories of their work with Atkins, providing insights into what made him one of country music’s most successful producers of all time. The program will be streamed live at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

Following the panel discussion, museum staffer Ben Hall will present The House That Chet Built: A Chet Atkins Tour of Historic RCA Studio B. This unique guided tour will show how Atkins worked in his longtime recording home, logging many hours as a musician and a producer, and cutting records that helped define the classic Nashville Sound.

The Life and Times of Chet Atkins, the guitar demonstration and Chet Atkins at Studio B are included with museum admission and are free for museum members.

Tickets for The House That Chet Built: A Chet Atkins Tour of Historic RCA Studio B can be purchased as an add-on to museum admission or for $9 for museum members. Reservations are required, and seating is limited. The shuttle departs from the museum promptly at 3:30 p.m. For information call 615-416-2001.

Museum programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture. With the same educational mission, the foundation also operates CMF Records, the museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.


Chet Atkins: The Lasting Influence of “Mr. Guitar”

Monday, December 19th, 2011

The Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition which opened in August 2011 continues into the summer of 2012. Located in the East Gallery of the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee, the exhibit pays tribute to one of country music’s most versatile and visionary artists.

Ten years after Chet’s death in June of 2001, interest in him has not faded in the least.  One only needs to see all that is blogged, tweeted, and otherwise posted about him on a daily basis.  Here are a couple recent examples:

“Chet Atkins: The Lasting Influence of ‘Mr. Guitar’” by Craig Havighurst.  Excerpt:

“It’s not that there weren’t solo guitar players before him — but there weren’t that many. Chet took solo guitar to everybody.

Even to this day, young devotees are embracing Atkins’ style. Ben Hall, a 22-year-old from Okolona, Miss., showcased at this year’s convention. Hall uses the tricky right-hand technique that Atkins adopted from Kentuckian Merle Travis and refined in the 1940s and ’50s.

‘It revolves around a bass note,’ Hall says. ‘The fingers … Merle used one, Chet thought Merle was using two. So he used two and three and sometimes a handful of fingers. They play the melody. And there’s famous stories of so many great guitar players along the way who play other styles listening to this and saying, ‘I had no idea that’s one instrument.’ ”

Read the entire story here.

December 2011 issue of Premier Guitar magazine, “Chet Atkins: Country Gentleman,” also by Craig Havighurst.  Excerpt:

“Refinement. It’s a word we’ve come to associate (sometimes incorrectly) with luxury brands and upscale dining. Musically, maybe the term conjures up a string quartet. It’s not what you see emblazoned on welcome signs to little Appalachian Mountain towns like Luttrell, Tennessee.

But to properly consider the career of Chester Burton Atkins, native son of said mountain town, the true meaning of refinement (‘to make improvement by introducing subtleties or distinctions,’ says Webster) could prove more than a little useful. Chet’s not the only small-town kid to become a major-league musician, cultural force, and executive, though few have achieved so much with such humility. But on the guitar, where nails meet strings, Chet stands pretty much alone.”

Read the entire story here.

Chet Atkins Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Legendary Guitarist Paul Yandell Passes Away

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

From the GretschGuitars.com website:

Legendary guitarist Paul Yandell, known for his longtime rhythm role alongside Chet Atkins, passed away Monday morning in Hendersonville, Tenn., following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Yandell was Atkins’ right-hand man for over 25 years, but he has also played on records from Dolly Parton, George Straight, Perry Como, Steve Wariner, Mary Chapin Carpenter and the Everly Brothers.

The Kentucky native moved to Nashville in 1955 and began recording as a professional with the Louvin Brothers.

Following a stint in the Army, Yandell recorded primarily with Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright, spent a year with George Hamilton IV, and then began an incredible run with Atkins in 1975 that lasted until Atkins’ death in 2001.

“Nobody was closer to [Atkins] than Paul,” Atkins’ daughter, Merle Atkins Russell, told The Tennessean.  “He was literally a lifelong friend, his right-hand man and a very dear friend off the stage.”

Yandell recorded five solo albums and most recently appeared on Wariner’s latest record, Guitar Laboratory, which was released earlier this year.

After Atkins’ death, Yandell became the prime source of information on Atkins’ techniques and equipment, even working with Gretsch to create guitars with Atkins’ favorite specs.

For a video of Yandell and Wariner performing at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in 2010, visit GretschGuitars.com.

Merle Atkins Russell presents Certified Guitar Player award to Paul Yandell on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Exhibition

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is paying tribute to one of country music’s most versatile and visionary artists, Chet Atkins, with Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player, a biographical exhibit which opened August 12, 2011 and runs through July 15, 2012 in the Museum’s East Gallery.

Get exhibition details and see exclusive online content here. Educational materials for children, families, and teachers recently added!

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Schedule of Upcoming Special Programs: (All times are Central and subject to change)

*Sunday, July 15, 1:00 p.m., CDT, Fingerstyle Guitar Demonstration: Brooks Robertson

Oregon-based Brooks Robertson is a composer and arranger in the style of Merle Travis, Jerry Reed, Thom Bresh, and his own mentor, Buster B. Jones. In 2004, Robertson won first place in Prairie Home Companion’s Talent from Twelve to Twenty Contest.

*Sunday, July 15, 2:00 p.m., CDT, Film Screening: Austin City Limits: “Chet Atkins and Friends” (1987)

In this episode of the long-running public television series, Atkins demonstrates his trademark guitar style as well his love of collaboration. His guests include Thom Bresh, Larry Carlton, Johnny Gimble, Peter Ostroushko, Butch Thompson, and the Prairie Home Companion Band. Free.

Past Program Videos/Photos:

Photos from the October 1 concert in salute of Chet by Joe Robinson and Pat Bergeson can be viewed here.

The August 27 concert by Tommy Emmanuel, C.G.P., in salute of Chet Atkins can be viewed online along with photos from the concert.

A video of the August 13 standing-room-only panel discussion with Steve Wariner, C.G.P.; Billy Edd Wheeler; and Paul Yandell, C.G.P., can be viewed here.

Check out photos from the August 10 Opening Reception here.

Paul Yandell: The Last “Certified Guitar Player”

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Throughout the history of the music industry, there have been artists who’ve gained tremendous acclaim and recognition for their accomplishments. Such an artist was guitar legend Chet Atkins, whose multiple claims to fame are well known and undisputed.

But there are also artists whose talents, accomplishments, and contributions to the industry somehow don’t garner them the recognition that they genuinely deserve. Such an artist is Paul Yandell, the long-time bandleader for, and confidant of, Chet Atkins—and a stellar guitarist in his own right.

At one point in his career Chet Atkins coined the term “Certified Guitar Player” to describe an artist who personified the ultimate in performance skill and musical quality. Chet personally bestowed the C.G.P. title on only four guitarists:  Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, the late Jerry Reed, and Steve Wariner. But there was one more name that needed to be added to the list.

From left: Merle Atkins Russell, Certified Guitar Player award recipient Paul Yandell, and Steve Wariner at the presentation ceremony on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

So it was that at a program held this past August 13 to mark the opening of the new Chet Atkins exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum in Nashville, Chet’s daughter Merle Atkins Russell asked Steve Wariner to help her continue her father’s tradition and read a proclamation that officially conferred the final C.G.P. title on Paul Yandell.

The proclamation read, in part: Whereas, long a fixture as Chet’s band leader and confidant, Paul Yandell was truly invaluable. Whereas, he is no stranger to accolades for his many contributions to country music, the Nashville recording community, and the guitar world in his own rights. Whereas, observing that Paul Yandell was involved in the distribution of all the C.G.P. honors as Chet’s assistant, and being extremely humble and modest, recused himself of that very honor.

Be it resolved by the Atkins family that throughout the land Paul Yandell, thumbpicker supreme, be known as the last and final C.G.P., certified guitar player.  Paul, you are truly the C.G.P.’s C.G.P.!

From left: Steve Wariner and Merle Atkins Russell presented the final Certified Guitar Player award proclamation to Paul Yandell on August 13. (photo: Caryn Wariner)

“I was thrilled to be invited to help honor Paul like this,” said Wariner. “Paul Yandell is my hero, and he deserves this more than anyone.  He’s an incredible player and a dear friend to me, as he was to Chet. What a cool, classy thing for Merle and the Atkins family to do. So completely right!”

An accomplished player by the time he left high school, Paul Yandell moved from western Kentucky to Nashville in 1955. He began his career with The Louvin Brothers, working with them until 1959. After serving in the Army, Paul played for Kitty Wells from 1961-1970. He joined Jerry Reed in 1970, where, as he puts it, he “went to college” learning from Jerry. Paul joined Chet Atkins in 1975 and spent the next twenty-five years supporting Chet in his career.

As a top Nashville session player, Paul played on hit records with Atkins, Reed, Dolly Parton, Steve Wariner, Hank Thompson, Perry Como, Roger Whitaker, Kitty Wells, The Louvin Brothers, Les Paul, Woody Herman, The Everly Brothers, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. He also appeared on TV shows such as The Dinah Shore Show, The Tonight Show, Today, The Pat Sajak Show, The Merv Griffin Show and Nashville Now.

Following Chet Atkins’ passing in 2001, Paul released a solo CD entitled Forever Chet, which featured songs that Chet had performed throughout his career. Paul’s 2004 Dream Train release featured many of his own tunes—and was largely performed on the Gretsch “Nashville Classic” guitar that he co-designed. Paul released In the Groove in 2005 and Drive On in 2006. In 2009, he performed at the ceremony at which Chet Atkins was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

From left: Fred Gretsch, Paul Yandell, and Dinah Gretsch together at the August 10th reception celebrating the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s new tribute exhibit Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. (Donn Jones Photography)

Fred and Dinah Gretsch (president and CFO of The Gretsch Company, respectively) were on hand for the festivities surrounding the opening of the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® & Museum. They had the opportunity to meet with Paul Yandell, personally and on behalf of Gretsch Guitars, after Paul had received his C.G.P. award. “We spoke with Paul on Saturday and Sunday,” said Fred Gretsch, “and we know how happy he was. We were equally happy for him. Paul is a tremendous artist, and we’re honored by his long association with Gretsch Guitars. Dinah and I offer our sincerest congratulations to Paul, as well as our kudos to the Atkins family for their thoughtfulness in presenting Paul with his much-deserved C.G.P. title.”

Chet Atkins Exhibit Opening Reception Kicks Event Off With Style

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

A very special Exhibition Opening Reception took place Wednesday evening, August 10, at The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum.  Approximately 200 enthusiastic guests were warmly welcomed by museum director Kyle Young and treated to a memorable musical performance by world-class guitar-slinger Steve Wariner, who, in 1997, received official “C.G.P.” status from Chet Atkins.  Special remarks were also made by Fred Gretsch, fourth generation Gretsch Company president, about Chet Atkins and his long-time association with the Gretsch family and company.  At the conclusion of the program, guests were given the opportunity to take an exclusive advance tour of the Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player exhibition which officially opens to the public on Friday, August 12.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch. Photo by Donn Jones Photography

During the exhibition opening weekend, the public will be able to enjoy an exhibit introduction and talk by a Museum curator; a panel discussion featuring Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner, and Billy Edd Wheeler and illustrated with photos, film footage, and recordings from the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive; film screenings; and much more.

This amazing cameo exhibition, made possible through the support of the Gretsch Company with additional support by the Great American Country Television Network, pays tribute to Chet’s legendary versatility and vision and is scheduled to run through June 11, 2012.  The exhibition will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout its duration.

For additional exhibition information, visit The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s website.

Additional photos from the reception:

Steve Wariner Interviewed by Local Media

Fred Gretsch, Duane Eddy, Ken Kramer

Ken Kramer, Fred Gretsch, and Jimmie Webster's Son Raey

Fred Gretsch, Duane Eddy, and Members of Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho-DeVilles

Steve Wariner, Fred Gretsch, Merle Russell & Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Fred & Dinah Gretsch with Joe Carducci. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Dinah & Fred Gretsch Receive Special Gift from Kyle Young. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Steve Wariner Performs. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Ben Hall. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Three Generations of the Gretsch Family Attend Reception. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Reception Attendees Treated to Special Preview. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Chet Atkins Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo by Donn Jones Photography.

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Exhibit Opens August 12

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Press release issued by The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum–

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will pay tribute to one of country music’s most versatile and visionary artists, Chet Atkins, with Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player, a biographical exhibit opening Friday, August 12, 2011, for a 10-month run in the Museum’s East Gallery.  The exhibition, which is made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company with additional support provided by Great American Country Television Network, will run through June 11, 2012.

Opening weekend festivities will include an exhibit introduction and talk by a Museum curator; a panel discussion featuring Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner and Billy Edd Wheeler and illustrated with photos, film footage and recordings from the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive; a film screening and more.  (A detailed schedule of grand opening activities is below.)

The exhibit will be accompanied by a richly detailed, lavishly illustrated, 96-page companion book, also titled Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. Published by the Museum’s Country Music Foundation Press, the volume will include essays by noted Atkins authorities Walter Carter (on Chet and his guitars), Michael Cochran (on Chet’s life and career), Rich Kienzle (on Chet’s development and prowess as a guitarist) and Museum Senior Historian John Rumble (on Chet’s work as a producer and record label executive). Also included are tributes to Chet from Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, and Steve Wariner, recipients of Chet’s honorary C.G.P. designation; from Mark Pritcher, president of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society; and from Fred W. Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company.  The book will be available in the Museum Store and at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

“Chet Atkins was country music’s ultimate Renaissance man, one of the greatest instrumentalists in American music history and a true musical savant,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “His signature guitar licks shaped recordings by scores of legendary artists, including the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley and Kitty Wells, and his playing influenced future rock gods Duane Eddy, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and many more.  As a producer, Chet was an architect of the ‘Nashville Sound’; he was also a brilliant record executive who signed and propelled a generation of country artists – including Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Charley Pride – to fame.  Chet’s guiding hand shaped much of the bedrock of country music, and we’re honored to tell his story, one we know will resonate with country fans old and new.

“We are grateful to Chet’s family and friends for sharing their mementos and memories and allowing us to tell this extraordinary tale.”

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player,
Made Possible Through the Generous Support of the Gretsch Company

Born Chester Burton Atkins on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tennessee, Chet Atkins became one of the most respected musicians and producers in American music history.   His unparalleled achievements were acknowledged formally with his 1973 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Atkins died on June 30, 2001, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Employing a wealth of instruments, vintage photos, personal possessions and correspondence, career-spanning audio and video and more, Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player will explore the life and impact of this incomparable musician, producer and executive.

Nearly 20 of Atkins’ guitars will be featured in the exhibit, including the following:

* Chet’s first guitar, a Sears Silvertone he acquired at age 11 and upon which he taught himself to play

* Chet’s 1938 Gibson L-10; the guitar was custom-designed for its original owner, Les Paul, and handed over to Atkins in 1945

* A 1948 Gibson L-7 guitar used by Atkins in the recording studio, and onstage with Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, in the late 1940s

* Four Gretsch Chet Atkins model guitars, including a 1976 fire-engine-red Gretsch Chet Atkins Super Axe

Other notable artifacts include:

* A recording contract with Bullet Recording Co., dated July 20, 1946, stating that for Atkins’ recording of “Pickin’ the Blues,” the artist would receive a “one-cent royalty for all records listed to sell at a retail price of more than 50 cents.”

* Atkins’ 1954 guitar instruction manual, Chet Atkins Guitar Method

* A meticulous re-construction of the work-bench and shelves in Chet’s basement home studio, including tools, meters and personal effects including photos of Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens and others

* Atkins’ framed C.G.P. (“Certified Guitar Player”) diploma, which he bestowed on himself in 1997

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player Grand Opening Month Program Schedule

All programs are included with Museum admission and free to Museum members, except as noted below.

Friday, August 12, 1:30 p.m.
Curator’s Exhibit Talk
A museum curator offers an introduction to Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player.

Saturday, August 13, 1:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion
Steve Wariner, Billy Edd Wheeler, and others discuss Atkins’ legacy.

Sunday, August 14, 1:00 p.m.
Guitar Demonstration: Ben Hall
The 2005 International Thumbstyle Guitar Champion, Ben Hall has performed or recorded with Charlie Louvin, Jeannie Seely and others. Hall will demonstrate the thumb-pick style of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.

Sunday, August 14, 2:00 p.m.
Film Screening: Chet Atkins: A Life in Music (2000)

Sunday, August 21, 1:00 p.m.
Guitar Demonstration with David Anderson.

Sunday, August 21, 2:00 p.m.
Film Screening: Chet Atkins Rare Performances 1955 – 1975

Saturday, August 27, 2:00 p.m.
Concert: Tommy Emmanuel C.G.P. Salutes Chet Atkins
Tommy Emmanuel, one of a handful of legatees upon whom Atkins bestowed the C.G.P. designation, performs songs from Atkins’ catalog.

Sunday, August 28, 1:00 p.m.
Instrument Demonstration:  John Knowles, C.G.P
John Knowles, one of a handful of legatees upon whom Atkins bestowed the C.G.P. designation, demonstrates some of what he learned from Atkins.

Sunday, August 28, 2:00 p.m.
Film Screening: The Porter Wagoner Show with special guest Chet Atkins (1974, 1975)

Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout the exhibit’s run.

These programs are made possible, in part, by grants from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission and by an agreement between the Tennessee Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The Museum’s mission is the preservation of the history of country and related vernacular music rooted in southern culture.  With the same educational mission, the Foundation also operates CMF Records, the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive, CMF Press, Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print®.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org or by calling (615) 416-2001.

Chet Atkins Honored by Country Music Hall of Fame

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

“Years from now, after I’m gone, someone will listen to what I’ve done and know I was here…they’ll hear my guitars speaking for me.” – Chet Atkins

COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME ® AND MUSEUM TO HONOR “MISTER GUITAR” CHET ATKINS WITH BIOGRAPHICAL EXHIBIT

Sideman.  Studio musician.  Performer.  Recording Artist.  Producer.  Record Executive.  In an industry known for multi-talented individuals, perhaps no one has achieved such a vast and varied resume as the inimitable Chet Atkins.  The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will pay tribute to this versatile and visionary artist with the cameo exhibition Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player, which opens in the Museum’s East Gallery on August 12, 2011, and runs through June 2012.  The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company.  Additional support will be provided by Great American Country Television Network.

“Chet Atkins was country music’s ultimate Renaissance man, one of the greatest instrumentalists in American music history and a true musical savant,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “His signature guitar licks shaped recordings by scores of legendary artists, including the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley and Kitty Wells, and his playing influenced future rock gods Duane Eddy, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and many more.  As a producer, Chet was an architect of the ‘Nashville Sound’; he was also a brilliant record executive who signed and propelled a generation of country artists – including Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Charley Pride – to fame.  Chet’s guiding hand shaped much of the bedrock of country music, and we’re honored to tell his story, one we know will resonate with country fans old and new.

“We’re also honored to have the Gretsch Company as this exhibition’s title sponsor,” Young continued.  “Gretsch is an important part of American music history, and enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Chet.”

“My uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., first signed Chet as a Gretsch signature guitar artist in 1954,” said Fred W. Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company.  “Our company is proud of its long association with Chet,¬ and our family cherishes the special relationship that we shared with such a unique individual.  Today, we’re proud to support this special exhibition by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We share the Museum’s commitment to ensuring that Chet’s unrivaled legacy will continue to be celebrated for generations to come.”

Chester Burton Atkins was born on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tennessee, a remote town nestled in the hills of Appalachia.  He grew up in a musical family – his mother sang and played piano, and his father was an itinerant music teacher – and at the age of eight Atkins began to learn the guitar and fiddle.  When Atkins’ parents divorced, his father relocated to Georgia, and his mother remarried. Young Chester, along with his brother, sister and stepfather, began playing regularly at square dances.  In 1936, an asthma attack forced him to live with his father in Georgia, where the more favorable climate made it easier for him to breathe.  While there, a teenaged Atkins heard Merle Travis on the radio; Travis’s thumb-and-finger picking style fascinated Atkins, who soon created his own thumb-and-two-finger variation.

After attending high school in Georgia, Atkins landed a job at WNOX in Knoxville, fiddling for singer Bill Carlisle and comic Archie Campbell.  He soon became a featured player on the station’s popular daily barn dance show, as well.  Over the next decade, Atkins worked as a musician for numerous artists and radio stations, including a memorable stint at KWTO in Springfield, Missouri.  It was there that station official Si Siman gave him the nickname “Chet.”  Siman, impressed with Atkins’ abilities, brought him to the attention of RCA Victor Records, and in 1947 the label’s Steve Sholes signed Atkins as a singer and guitarist.  Chet’s initial RCA recordings were not hits, and he returned to WNOX in 1948, working first with Homer & Jethro and then joining Maybelle and the Carter Sisters as lead guitarist.  He soon went back to KWTO, this time with the Carters.

When the Carters moved to Nashville in 1950 to become members of the Grand Ole Opry, Atkins joined them.  With the help of his mentor, Steve Sholes, and music executive Fred Rose, Chet became one of Nashville’s “A-Team” session musicians, recording with Johnnie & Jack, Hank Williams and others.  He also appeared on the Opry as a solo act and returned to making his own records; his first chart hit, a cover of the pop song “Mr. Sandman,” came in 1955, followed by a hit guitar duet with Hank Snow on “Silver Bell.”  Soon after, fans began to refer to Atkins as “Mr. Guitar,” and Gretsch Guitars introduced a model bearing his name.

Throughout the 1950s, Atkins’ work relationship with the New York–based Sholes deepened; in 1952, Atkins began organizing sessions for Sholes, and shortly thereafter Sholes began trusting Atkins to produce sessions whenever Sholes’ schedule prevented his coming to Nashville.  In 1955, Sholes made Atkins manager of RCA’s new Nashville studio, a space rented as needed from the Methodist Television Radio and Film Commission.   Two years later, Sholes and Atkins convinced the label to commission its own office and studio in Nashville.  The resulting building, known today as RCA Studio B, opened in November 1957, adding impetus to the growing Music Row area. Sholes installed Atkins as head of the label’s Nashville artist & repertoire operation, and ten years later made him a company vice president.

As rock & roll eroded country music’s record sales and threatened its viability, Atkins’ production skills came to the foreground.  Atkins – along with Decca’s Owen Bradley, Columbia’s Don Law and Capitol’s Ken Nelson – began to craft recordings that would appeal to pop listeners as well as country fans.  The style of these recordings, in which singers were backed by neutral rhythm sections and steel guitars, and fiddles were replaced by vocal choruses, came to be known as the “Nashville Sound.”  Atkins mined gold from the new approach immediately, first producing Jim Reeves’ 1957 crossover hit “Four Walls” and, later that year, producing Don Gibson’s 1958 double-sided smash “Oh Lonesome Me” / “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Atkins assumed production of established stars, including Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves and Hank Snow, and produced hits by new stars including Bobby Bare, the Browns, Floyd Cramer, Skeeter Davis, Dottie West and many more.

During the 1960s, Atkins continued to record and perform:  Always a jazz lover, he increasingly explored the genre in his performances and appeared at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival; he also played for President Kennedy the following year.

By the middle of the decade, Atkins was producing more than two dozen acts for RCA.  During this time, he signed a cadre of now-legendary country artists, including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed and Connie Smith.

As the 1970s dawned, Atkins reduced his producing commitments and focused more on his own recordings and live performances.  He embarked on a series of collaborative albums, working with Les Paul, Jerry Reed, Merle Travis, Doc Watson and others.  However, he still found time to facilitate additions to the RCA roster, including Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens and Steve Wariner.

Atkins’ virtuosity was undeniable, and his mantle quickly filled with the hardware to prove it.  In 1973, Atkins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  He went on to earn 14 Grammy awards and nine Country Music Association awards during his career.

In 1982, Atkins relinquished his RCA executive role and left the label to record for Columbia in 1983.  He also gave himself an honorary degree:  Atkins christened himself a “Certified Guitar Player” and began signing his name as “Chet Atkins, C.G.P.”  Atkins would later bestow this “degree” on several legatees, including Jerry Reed and Steve Wariner.

For the remainder of his life, Atkins continued to record and play; he collaborated on albums with George Benson, Suzy Bogguss, Mark Knopfler, Mark O’Connor and others, exploring and expanding the boundaries of country, jazz and pop.  In 1993, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Atkins died on June 30, 2001.  He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player will be accompanied by an ongoing series of programs throughout the exhibit’s duration.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at www.countrymusichalloffame.org  or by calling (615) 416-2001.