Chet Atkins, known as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman,” was the man who invented the “Nashville sound” that rescued country music from a commercial slump. Like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, and the boys, Atkins altered the physical characteristics of country music.
As a guitarist, he explored not just country music, but also jazz and classical styles. He has perfected the ability to simultaneously play chords and melodies. His distinctive thumb-and-three-finger picking style marked on the guitar performances history.
A producer that changed country history
Among all that we could attach in his identity, he has been a famous figure in the Country music album production. He became a studio manager for RCA in 1957. He is a primary catalyst in the creation of the Nashville Sound, editing some of the genre’s rural features and adding strings and background vocal ensembles. The result received different reactions. Purists found it negligibly swanky, the pop sensibility tainted, but all in all, the genre found more stars for a bigger and broader audience.
Chet’s production was so effective and influential that it provided the basic sketch the sounds developed by other producers.
For the record…
Chet holds the title of the country artist most awarded by the Recording Academy. Between his first musical career award in 1967 to 1996, he won a total of fourteen Grammys in addition to a Lifetime Achievement Award. Also, he held nine CMA Instrumentalist of the year honors and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.
Atkins died on June 30, 2001, at the age of seventy-seven, after battling cancer for several years. He underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in June 1997. And in the 1970’s, he had a bout with colon cancer. He spent his last years in his office on Nashville’s ”Music Row.” He went singing and playing old songs with visiting performers whose recording careers he had helped establish.
We will never forget his music and his contribution to country music. He will always be remembered as one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century. Also, he stays in our heart as a legendary musician and producer within country music.