I was angry at myself on the finally day of CAAS 1997 as I had been delayed at a local restaurant and it was just 45 minutes before the big Saturday night concert where everyone gets to see Chet.
According the convention guide, Chet was not going to perform but rather observe performances from other musicians in his honor, as Chet was recovering from some "minor health problems". I had not been aware of the nature of his illness, having only heard different rumors around the workshops and in conversations in the hotel lobby. By the time I got to the Sheraton, the line waiting for the auditorium doors to open was looking 100 yards long, so I resigned myself to the fact that I would sit in the back of the hall and look at a projection screen of what was going on onstage.
I wandered around the hotel hallways a moment or two, and just then I noticed Chet Atkins quietly walking into a small meeting room a few rooms down the hall. I couldn't believe it! Did I just see Chet? Here was the man I had so long admired and he was maybe 30 feet from me!
After a few moments, I decided I wanted to take this opportunity to try to meet Chet. After some apprehension, I walked to the door of the room, which was now closed, and slowly pushed on the door to peek in. Inside sat Chet in his white "I Still Can't Say Goodbye" hat, with 4 folks sitting in various chairs around him. They were quietly chatting. Chet turned and looked at the 35 year-old groupie peeking in the door. He smiled and said hello so I awkwardly entered.
I don't remember all of what I said, as I was so nervous. I think I blubbered on about how I first started listening to him as a teen in the early seventies when everyone else was rocking and rolling and that I admired his work. He asked me where I was from and I told him, then I asked for an autograph. He said sure, but then I realized I had nothing for him to sign! I also realized that like a fool I had left my guitar just sitting out in the hallway when I spotted Chet.
I said excuse me and ran out for my guitar and when I returned and gave it to Chet to sign. He made a comment about how it was a nice looking guitar and he'd never seen one like it. (It is a beautiful Koa wood guitar made by a little-known luthier in Florida named Dennis Hill).
Chet signed it and gave it back to me and I thanked him.
Grateful that I had shared these few moments with Chet and not wanting to intrude I excused myself, thanking him again as I left.
I later found out that Chet was recovering from surgery for a brain tumor. I felt awful that I had intruded and amazed at
his warmth and graciousness towards a fan, even in difficult personal times.
The next year I launched Misterguitar.com, and was able to meet Chet two more times, in his office and for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel.
Creating and maintaining his official website has been an honor and priviledge.
- Tom Redmond