About twenty years ago I went out to buy a Chet Atkins record and what I came back with contained the impressive instrumental Kicky. Atkins makes this sound about as easy as taking candy from a baby…
Stories have been told about the very young Chet who, when a friend or relative would come to visit, and if that person played a guitar, would crowd in and put his ear so very close to the instrument that it became difficult for that person to play. This was an early demonstration of his affinity for the instrument that would later become his life, and that he would take around the world, playing packed concert halls from Nashville to the Boston Pops.
Atkins became an accomplished guitarist while he was in high school. He would use the restroom in the school to practice, because it gave better acoustics. His first guitar had a nail for a nut and was so bowed that only the first few frets could be used. He later purchased a semi-acoustic electric guitar and amp, but he had to travel many miles to find an electrical outlet since his home had no electricity.
Atkins did not have a strong style of his own until 1939 when he heard Merle Travis picking over WLW radio.This early influence dramatically shaped his unique playing style. Whereas Travis’s right hand utilized his index finger for the melody and thumb for bass notes, Atkins expanded his right hand style to include picking with his first three fingers, with the thumb on bass. The result was a clarity and complexity that became his unmistakable sound.
Gretsch make a fine looking Chet Atkins country gent guitar for those of you who want to develop the twang!