Chester Burton Atkins, 1924-2001

I can’t find another thread noting the passing of Chet Atkins – if so, I apologize but I have to acknowledge the pleasure this man brought me over the years.

The obituary I read noted the many, many artists he helped along during his career in Nashville. They left my name off the list but I have to credit him with having more influence than any single artist in my life. (Yes, for those who know me – more than Leo Kottke.)

I only saw him in concert once, a long time ago, but grew up listening to his records – and I still buy his CDs. The latest, but surely not the last, given the way things work in the recording industry, was “The Day the Fingerpickers Took Over the World”, with Tommy Emmanuel.

As with any prolific performer he recorded some things that I don’t care for and, IMHO, a few downright clunkers, but there is so much that is worth listening to.

Farewell, Mr. Guitar.


That man could play anything.

I met him when my ex and I were working in radio in Tennessee. He was definately one of the coolest people I ever had the pleasure of shaking hands with.

Hooker and Atkins in the same week? Man, this really bites.

Man…a lot of people who were born in 1924 are dying. First Carroll O’Conner, Jack Lemmon, and now Chet Atkins. 2001 must be a bad year if you were born in 1924–and are an entertainer.

Anyone pick these guys in the Death Pool?


Make it stop.


Can you imagine how Mark Knopler’s playing would be without the influence of Mr. Atkins?

Back in the 50’s when RCA wanted to increase their Country catalogue they tapped Chet Atkins to head their new A&R department in Nashville.
In that position Chet was responsible for either starting or helping to start the careers of The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Jerry Reed, Charley Pride, Dottie West and Don Gibson. Atkins was the guy who first put strings behind Eddy Arnold.
The actual list of people he helped is huge.
Favorite albums for me included teamups with Lester Flatt and Jerry Reed.

One of his best duets is “Imagine” with Mark Knopfler. It can be found on “The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball”.

Also check out the “Neck and Neck” album.

I saw him play in Carrboro, NC a few years back. Near the end of his concert he did a trick where he improvised a tune on the guitar, recording it with some sort of (digital?) device. When he finished, he played it back and accompanied himself, recording that as well. He played the now two recordings back, and added a third layer onto that. Very cool.


Atkins and Hendrix where Knopflers major influences. Being a fan of Knopfler, I got into Atkins a few years ago. The “Neck & Neck” album the two made is amazing. Those guitar duels in “There’ll be some changes made”… shivers down my spine.

Truly one of the great, great guitar legends.

So long, Chet.

Great guitarist, but I didn’t go for his “strings and smarmy background singers” style of production. But I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, so I’ll shut up.

Great Man. His web site is for those interested.

“There’ll be some changes made”, one of my faves as well.

I met him on an airplane to LA one time. A truly fine gentleman.

Someone once asked him if he could read music. He replied, “yes, but not enough to hurt my playing.”

So long Chet, hope we get to hear you play again sometime.

There’s one word to me that describes Chet Atkins and his cascade of fingers:


I hope he rides that wave well into the lilting beyond. Muy thanks for that beautiful music!