Chet Atkins

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About Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins was equally influential as a guitarist and a producer, making an enormous impact on country music in both roles. Born in Tennessee in 1924, he was an asthmatic youth who dedicated himself to the guitar and went pro in his teens. In the ’40s he played with country legends Red Foley and The Carter Family. He cut his first solo single, “Guitar Blues”—an instrumental displaying his unique fingerpicking style—in 1946. But he didn’t score his first hit until his 1955 version of “Mr. Sandman,” a mix of pop, jazz, and country that positioned him as Nashville’s answer to Les Paul. He would soon assist in designing a signature model guitar for Gretsch and RCA Nashville’s legendary, state-of-the-art Studio B. Atkins became chief of production and engineering at the studio and masterminded what became known as the Nashville Sound, replacing country’s most rural elements with urbane touches, like strings and choral backing vocals. The game-changing result was a long run of hits starting with ’50s classics like Jim Reeves’ “Four Walls” and Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me.” But Atkins never stopped making his own music—influencing the likes of Mark Knopfler and George Harrison along the way—until his death in 2001.

Luttrell, TN, United States
June 20, 1924
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