. . . you’ll find that Chet’s story
is emblematic of the larger
story of country music.
with an open body and a closed body, and
he preferred the latter, continuing his long-term evolution to more solid, sealed-up
instruments, as improving pickups made up
Chet Atkins adds some wiggle to
You Tube search term: Chet Atkins—Mr.
Sandman (TV 1954)
Atkins and Vince Gill in a rare duet-picking
performance of “Going Down that Road
Feelin’ Bad,” on Ralph Emery Live. During
this intimate interview full of humorous
exchanges between the country virtuosos,
Gill remarks, “You’re killin’ me Chet,”
referring to Atkins’ picking.
You Tube search term: Chet Atkins + Vince
Gill Together. Rare.
Mark Knopfler and Chet Atkins play the instrumental tune “I’ll See You in my Dreams”
live at Secret Policeman’s Third Ball 1987.
You Tube search term: Mark Knopfler &
Chet Atkins - Instrumental Medley
for the loss of acoustic tone. Chet flooded
this guitar with ideas: the much-improved
Filter’Tron pickup designed by Ray Butts,
the zero fret for improved intonation, and
the straight bar bridge. Many feel that Chet’s
solo recordings in the 1960s were the pinnacles of his artistry, and this is the guitar
heard on most of those dazzling records.
Gibson Studio Classic
Chet played a classical guitar for the first
time in the early 1950s, and he liked it. “It
seemed a whole lot warmer and more expressive to me” than the steel-string electrics and
acoustics, he wrote. In the ’60s, Chet began
working nylon-stringed instruments into his
recordings and shows, and he was delighted
to discover they solved long-standing struggles with splitting, shredding fingernails.
In the ’70s, he would split his shows
into an acoustic set and an electric set, and
his historic, vibrant recordings with his
good friend Jerry Reed were all played on
classical-style guitars. He loved the feel, but
not the loss of volume, and his efforts to
solve that problem marked the end of his
Gretsch years and ushered in an endorsement and working relationship with
Gibson. The company developed the Chet
Atkins CE (Classical Electric) in 1982 and
followed with a steel-string version in 1987
that became a hit with rock ’n’ roll players looking for arena-sized sound from a
California luthier Kirk Sand approached
Chet with further improvements in body
chambers and pickup design. Chet connected
him with Gibson and the result was perhaps
the most elegant of the series, this Studio
Classic, with a mahogany fleur-de-lis and
vintage-style Gibson slotted peghead.
Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player is
situated within the Country Music Hall
of Fame and Museum such that you see it
before embarking on the century-plus journey through country music, from pre-elec-tricity folk music to the modern era today.
And then you’ll find that Chet’s story is
emblematic of the larger story of country
music. His life in music began in the hills
without artifice or amplification. He found
a large audience on the radio circuit and
early television. He was out front on multi-track recording and progressive, hybridized
country music. He helped make markets
where there had been none for the music
he loved. And then he became a true elder
statesman, taking country to the Boston
Pops on public TV and elsewhere.
If you love the guitar with even a fraction of the ardor Chet had for the instrument, this unprecedented collection will be
as perfect a preface to country music’s larger
narrative as you could ask. The exhibit runs
until at least June 2012.
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