Hurtin' your feelings edition – Chet Atkins
by Michele Christopher

There are guitarists out there that just make you feel bad. That is, they are just so damn good that any accomplishment you have made pales in comparison to their skill, talent, dedication and achievements. chet.jpgThere are Wes Montgomery's cascading notes, Les Paul's killer tone and tasteful licks, Dave Gilmour's economically chosen notes, and many others. Chet Atkins is a leader among these guitarists. A man of such talent and such good taste, we'll be talking about his playing for decades to come.

I hate to admit it, but I only got into Atkins recently. Being a young punk and metal head, it has taken me a long time to appreciate certain forms of music. There was always country or Christian music playing in my house when I was growing up. That's the music my parents listened to. I don't feel any angst about it (any more), but at the time my music was as much a rebellion against theirs as it was the music I enjoyed.

So, years later, as I mellowed and matured, so did my musical appreciation. New
musicians pop up that make you rethink the ones that you've been listening to. "Hey that lick sounds just like something Jaco Pastorious played!" "Man, I don't know why they have to play so many notes right there."

chet 2.jpgChet Atkins does this to you. You hear him play something – his style was unique – and think you've heard it before. But of course you have; so many of today's guitarists are hybrids of so many different styles. You can hear some Chet in Mark Knopfler's solos. You can hear some Chet in most
rockabilly guitarists. Mostly though, you hear Chet's influence in countryguitarists. Country guitarists that care about playing music, mind you. Not the pop crap on the radio that passes for country.

Anyone who plays guitar knows how difficult finger picking can be. Atkins developed a style influenced by Merle Travis. While Travis used his thumb for bass notes and his index finger for high end, Atkins added his middle and ring fingers giving more depth to his sound. This style is considered one of the hardest styles of playing to pick up on.

While generally considered a country guitarist, Atkins always maintained that he was just a guitarist. And if you look through his catalog of albums, you can see a lot of variety. Growing up in rural Georgia in the late '20s through the '30s, country/hillbilly music was certainly an influence. There's plenty of jazz in his music also, but mainly it's just Mr. Guitar. His sound. His gift to us.

Cullen writes daily at Half a Pica Distance


nice one cullen. love the chet.


Thanks, kali. I loves me some Chet, too.


atkins rules

the Mr. T of the country scene

/I have no idea what that means, but it made me giggle

thanks cullen


Wonderful writing, Cullen.

Makes me want to listen to some Chet right now.


An amazing guitarist, and very underrated. Didja ever hear the album Mark Knofler did with Chet? (Neck & Neck. Good stuff and worth a listen.



Makes me want for you to post a couple of Chet Atkins songs so I can hear him for the very first time and figure out which albums to go and buy.

hint hint.


Just call me Captain Subtle.


I pick like Chet. I didn't know it was supposed to be hard. Shit. Now i'm not gonna be able to do it. Damn you.


It comes naturally to some people, Pril. Damn you. ;)

I used to jam with a drummer who plunked around on guitar and bass. He couldn't play fast or chord and didn't know any scales. But he could fingerpick like the devil.


I caught Chet one night on CMT playing a fretless guitar. It was pretty amazing. Nice post Cullen


Most people who think they play like Chet really don't, in the overall sense. If they can play "Windy & Warm" they think they're playing like Chet, and maybe for that song they are.

But adding "Casacde" or "Dizzy Fingers" is also playing like Chet!

Good luck!



He's from Tennessee, not Georgia. otherwise, well said!


oh hey, guys, for a starting point and also to compare and contrast jesus christ and a chocolate chip cookie, get the Les Paul/Chet Atkins album(s). they put both on one cd and re-released it. get to getting!


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