Chet Atkins sings “I Still Write Your Name in the Snow”
Chester (Chet) Burton Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001), known as “Mr. Guitar” and “The Country Gentleman,” was born into a lower-class farming family in east Tennessee. Atkins grew up there and in rural Georgia. Being that his father was a music educator and his older brother, Jimmy, was a guitarist who worked with Les Paul, there was no doubt that music was a gift that ran in Chet’s family. With not much else to do for fun, Chet spent hours upon hours practicing the guitar in his home studio with his musical influences being Merle Travis, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and many, many more.
Chet Atkins was largely known for his impressive guitar skills, with a finger-picking style similar to Merle Travis that covered the melody, but also much of the bassline and rhythm. In addition to the new guitar style, as a producer and Vice President of Nashville’s RCA Victor, Atkins (along with Owen Bradley and Bob Ferguson) was largely responsible for the genre shift in country music from traditional country to what became known as the “Nashville Sound.” Atkins produced records for Elvis Presley, Hank Snow, Dolly Parton, Floyd Cramer, Porter Wagoner, Dottie West, the Everly Brothers, Don Gibson, Eddy Arnold, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, Jerry Reed and many others. He was also known for an endorsement of sorts for highly accomplished guitar players, naming them “guitar certified.” It became one of the highest honors in the music industry, though it was extended to only five guitarists–Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Wariner, Jerry Reed, John Knowles, and Marcel Dadi.
Over the years, Atkins won 14 Grammy awards (40 total nominations), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, a Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music, nine Instrumentalist of the Year honors from the Country Music Association, and countless Best Guitarist awards in magazines from Cash Box to Playboy.
Chet Atkins passed away from Colon Cancer in 1996 at the age of 77, however, his musical influence and legacy still lives on today.