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There has never been, nor will there ever be a more devoted Chet Atkins than me. When I was but a small child, my dad had an 8-track tape of Chet's greatest hits in our 1964 Pontiac Catalina. I memorized every lick, thumb-beat and harmonic note. As I grew and took up guitar, it was Chet whom I tried to emulate.

I finaly got to see Mr. Guitar in person first with the Charlotte Symphony in 1989. Shortly thereafter I saw him with Stanley Jordan at the Charleston, SC spoleto festival.

Imagine my excitement upon learning he was coming to Wilmington, NC where I reside. I purchased excellent seats the day they went on sale. My office was across the street from the concert hall which tempted me to try to "run into" him during the afternoon setup/practice. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find out the practice was closed to spectators. As I was walking back to my office, however, I looked across the parking lot, and who was putting money in a parking meter but Chester himself. I approached him with some reticence, and told him I was a lifelong fan. He was as gracious a gentleman as he is a genius with a guitar. He talked with me until I felt I was overstaying my welcome.

I have met many famous people in my life. None, however, have made me feel as comfortable as Chet Atkins. Meeting Chet and shaking his talented hand was the thrill of a lifetime. He is an American treasure.

- Gary Winstead

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