Atkins, Chet

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Atkins, Chet

Chet Atkins (Chester Burton Atkins), 1924–2001, American country guitarist, singer, and record company executive, b. Luttrell, Tenn. Part of a musical family, he played fiddle and guitar as a youngster and performed professionally while still a teenager. His distinctive guitar-picking style involved using three fingers to pick out the melody while the thumb supplied the bass. A respected studio musician during the 1940s, Atkins became well known after his debut (1950) on the Grand Ole Opry radio show and, in the years that followed released some 100 solo albums and contributed to many more. He also was (1957–82) an important record producer and executive at RCA's Nashville division. Through his music and that of those with whom he performed and whom he produced—including Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Eddy Arnold, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton—Atkins helped shape the "Nashville sound" and transform the city into the center of the country music industry. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973 and received 14 Grammy awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award (1993).

See his autobiography, Chet Atkins: Country Gentleman (1974); biography by R. O'Donnell (1976).

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