Few guitarists have had more influence on the instrument than Chet Atkins.
In Atkins case, his influence extends from the country-music realm into rock
and roll, as well. As a studio musician, he appeared on records by
Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Hank Williams, Roy Orbison,
and countless country musicians. Atkins thumb-and-fingerpicking style
influenced George Harrison, Duane Eddy, the Ventures, Eddie Cochran,
Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler, as well as innumerable country pickers.
Even the likes of Ted Nugent has credited Atkins with inspiring him
to take up the instrument.
"I think he influenced everybody who picked up
a guitar" said Duane Eddy.
Atkins was a key architect of the Nashville sound, which opened up
traditional country music to pop influences, allowing it to remain
commercially viable in the Fifties and Sixties. His multiple roles
in the music industry included recording artist, record-company executive,
producer, guitar designer, and sideman. It is as in the sideman category
that Atkins has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Yet his versatility and impact could have made him a viable candidate
as a performer, early influence or nonperformer, too. Atkins won 14 Grammys
(including the Lifetime Achievement Award). Guitar Player magazine proclaimed
him Popular Music.s Most Influential Stylist. In 1973, he became the youngest
person ever inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Two decades later,
Atkins was one of the oldest musicians he was 77 when he died of cancer
in 2001 inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame.
Atkins was a virtuoso guitarist whose smooth, clean-sounding style
belied his intricate mastery. His style was a tasteful blend of country,
jazz and pop, informed by such early influences as Merle Travis,
and Django Reinhardt. Atkins would pick a bass line with his thumb on the
lower strings and fingerpick melodies and harmonies with his other four
fingers. He played Gretsch and Gibson guitars, and he helped design
numerous models by both instrument makers. These include the
Chet Atkins Country Gentleman and the Chet Atkins Tennessean.
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