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. There 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
Chet 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
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