Atkins, Chet


Atkins, Chet
orig. Chester Burton Atkins

born June 20, 1924, Luttrell, Tenn., U.S.
died June 30, 2001, Nashville, Tenn.

U.S. guitarist and record company executive.

Atkins began his musical career as a fiddler in the early 1940s, but it was his signature style of playing guitar (bass rhythm played with thumb, melody picked with three fingers) that brought him worldwide acclaim. In the early 1950s he began playing electric guitar, pioneering its use in country music. As an RCA Records executive, he produced hit recordings for Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, and Waylon Jennings.

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▪ 2002
Chester Burton Atkins 
      American guitarist and record producer (b. June 20, 1924, Luttrell, Tenn.—d. June 30, 2001, Nashville, Tenn.), was a major figure in country music. Atkins shone as a guitarist, talent scout, and record producer who created the “Nashville sound” of the 1960s; Don Gibson, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Perry Como (q.v. (Como, Perry )) were among the stars he produced or discovered for RCA Records. Atkins played fiddle and guitar with country bands on several Southern and Midwestern radio stations before making his first records as a singer-guitarist in 1946 (he later tried to destroy the master recordings on which he sang). After appearances on the Grand Ole Opry and hit guitar solos, including “Galloping on the Guitar” (1949), he played at many recording sessions with Hank Williams and others. Atkins became an assistant producer in 1952 and urged RCA to sign Presley, which led to the latter's rise to stardom; in 1957 Atkins became manager of RCA's Nashville recording operations. He then championed a modern country music sound that abandoned banjos, fiddles, and steel guitars in favour of string sections and vocal choruses. Atkins became an RCA vice president in 1967 but soon began to perform more actively. He made over 100 albums under his own name, playing the guitar in his signature fingerpicking style that he had adapted from that of Merle Travis. Atkins won 14 Grammy Awards and costarred on albums with guitar legends Travis, Les Paul, Doc Watson, Jerry Reed, and Mark Knopfler as well as his Nashville cronies Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer, Danny Davis, and the Nashville String Band, among others. He toured the world playing country music, pop, and jazz and was sometimes featured with symphony orchestras. In the 1980s Atkins left RCA to record for Columbia. The guitarmaker Gretsch introduced its Chet Atkins Country Gentleman model in the 1960s. Atkins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.

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▪ American musician
in full  Chester Burton Atkins 
born June 20, 1924, Luttrell, Tennessee, U.S.
died June 30, 2001, Nashville, Tennessee

      influential American country-and-western (country music) guitarist and record company executive who is often credited with developing the Nashville Sound.

      Born into a musical family, Atkins began playing the guitar as a child and during his teen years performed professionally as a fiddler. By the late 1940s he had become a sought-after session guitarist. His signature finger-picking style (three fingers picking the melody while the thumb supplied bass rhythm) was largely derived from that of Merle Travis (Travis, Merle). From his first solo album, Chet Atkins' Gallopin' Guitar (1953), through more than 100 recordings in his own name and hundreds more as a backing musician, Atkins's picking changed little, although his material and collaborators varied widely. His recordings range from old-time mountain music to contemporary rock and jazz.

      Atkins also pursued a parallel career in the music industry as a nonperformer, acting as a talent scout, artists-and-repertoire man, and record producer and serving as vice president of the RCA Corporation (1968–79). In charge of RCA's Nashville studios from 1957, Atkins helped introduce electric instruments and polished arrangements, broadening the popular appeal of the country music genre. Atkins won many Grammy Awards, and he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.

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Universalium. 2010.

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