I'll never forget meeting Chet on the 29th October 1983 when he came to England for a concert at Her Majesty's
Theatre, London. The CAAS here organized a seminar for members to meet Chet, ask him some questions and
learn a few licks.
Incidentally, it was at that concert that Richard Smith, as an 11-year old, got to play on stage
with Chet. If you haven't yet heard Richard playing with his two brothers as the Richard Smith Trio I
suggest you check him out. He is absolutely outstanding; able to faithfully reproduce Chet's work and also
various styles such as Jerry Reed, Django Reinhardt and Jerry Donahue.
But back to the seminar, which was held in a vacant office in London. Many of us had our guitars with us, (mine's
a 1973 Tennessean), and we eagerly awaited Chet. He duly arrived and most graciously gave us a couple of hours
of his time. All sorts of questions were fired at him and I particularly remember someone asking Chet's thoughts
about Merle Travis who had just passed away at that time. Chet was very emotional about Merle's death and
freely confessed that he was unable to talk about him because he was so upset.
On a lighter note I remember embarrassing myself somewhat when Chet was showing us his famous fast run lick
which those of us with guitars tried to emulate. I was really trying hard at this lick and didn't realise that Chet had
started talking again whilst I was still playing. Suddenly it went quiet as Chet looked over to me and said ''I
thought I'd left my echo unit on there for a moment!''. I sheepishly apologized and felt like crawling under my
After questions, Chet played several numbers for us including 'Dizzy Fingers' which drew a tremendous round of
Then it was time for us to meet the man personally and, although I can't remember what I said to him when my
turn came, he happily signed my Gretsch for me and played a couple of licks on it for me. I'll never get rid of that
guitar - it has been signed and played on by the man whom I consider to be the finest musician of our time.
I have been able to meet Chet briefly again on his visits to the U.K. and he is always so patient and amenable to
his fans. A great man.
Thank you Chet.
- Keith Bateman
The FULL LIST of "When I Met Chet" stories