It was Los Angeles and I was about 11 or 12 years old when a friend and mentor of mine, Ernie
Ball, told me, "Get dressed up tomorrow night, I'm going to take you to something special." The
following evening I was all dressed up and on my way with Ernie, his wife Gail, my brother Gene
and my dad Bud to an evening I would never forget. Still not knowing where we were headed,
the ride to the Ambassador Hotel seemed a long way, especially with my imagination working
overtime trying to figure out what this mysterious night had in store.
When we arrived at our destination, the walk through the elegant hotel itself was overwhelming to
my young eyes. Then I saw it.. The sign... I couldn't believe it. "Gretsch Guitars presents
Mister Guitar, Chet Atkins plus Jimmy Webster and his White Falcon". I was so excited!
I had every Chet Atkins album, but could only see him on those old black and white Sunday
morning films that a local TV station ran of the Grand Ol' Opry when he would play with the
Carter Family or an occasional solo spot. But not tonight... He was here, in person! Ernie took
me right down to the front row and we were seated waiting for the show to begin. Jimmy
Webster did a memorable performance with his "touch style" of jazz STEREO guitar. I had never
heard anything like it but it still remains a blur to me as I was waiting for "The Man". Finally,
after a well deserved encore, he left the stage. At that moment my young heart was racing so
fast that writing this memory almost brings back that same feeling.
The lights dimmed and a man walked out on the stage and took his place behind a set of cocktail
drums. Then a voice said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Guitar, Chet Atkins". This tall thin man
walked out on stage with his Country Gentleman guitar. He looked like a giant, and to me, he
was. Then, he began to play. His records were always the best sounding records of there time
but the sound I was hearing from my front row seat was awesome! He played everything with
perfection that I wanted to hear and more.. My mind was being filled to overflowing. The
inspiration will continue for a lifetime.
After the show, Ernie took me to meet Chet and we had our picture taken. I will never forget that
evening and will always be beholding to Ernie Ball. My only wish is that I may inspire some
young guitar player the way Chet Atkins inspired me.. Long live his great talent...
- Thom Bresh
The FULL LIST of "When I Met Chet" stories