"When I met Chet"
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I started playing the guitar when I was about 13 years of age. I had been given an old Gretsch acoustic by my older brother, and been shown a few chords by him, and soon developed a love for the "sound" of the instrument. When I was 15 years old I put a "nickle" in a juke box in a cafe in Spenard, Alaska, and punched the button which brought up a recording of "Chester Atkins" playing "The Old Spinning Wheel". I believe this was in 1955, and it was at this point that I realized that I was "doing it all wrong", and I immediately threw away my flat picks, and finally found a music store that sold thumb picks. Talk about an "awkward" transition! I eventually obtained an instructional booklet on Chet's style, and began a lifelong love affair with fingerstyle, or what I refer to as the "Chet Atkins" style of guitar.

It was not until I believe 1964 however, that I finally was able to meet the Master. I attended one of the great "Music Master's Festivals" in Denver, Colorado, which featured Chet, Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer, in conjunction with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, and this particular one also featured a kid from Georgia, by the name of Jerry Reed!

After the great show, (and these were great shows, for any of you who weren't fortunate enough to have seen them), I somewhat apprehensively walked back to the dressing room area, hoping to perhaps just catch a glimpse of this unbelievable musician up close. A security person asked me what I was "looking for" and I said "Mr. Atkins" and he said "go down that hallway." and to my amazement I turned a corner and there was Chet, Jerry Reed, and another gentleman talking! I was totally petrified of course, and must have seemed like a real jerk, because Chet said "yes sir, what can I do for you?" I simply said I wanted to "meet you", and told him how much I appreciated his music, and I was impressed by his humility, and his obvious kindness, as he invited me into the dressing room, and didn't seem in any hurry to terminate the conversation! I spoke briefly with Jerry Reed, and I was impressed with the fact that even though the "show" was over, Jerry was still playing the guitar, sitting off in a corner of the room! That's what you call dedication to your art!

Several years prior to this, I had written to Chet, and had suggested several songs to him, which I felt would be ideal for his style. I had received a reply from him, and he had "assured" me that the tunes appealed to him also, and that he would definitely consider them in an upcoming recording session. I thought at the time of course, that he was just being kindly, but I was thrilled when he indeed included them in a LP album which he recorded for RCA. Apparently we have similar tastes in music!

In conclusion, I would like to say that while there are an unbelievable number of up and coming fingerstyle guitarists at this time, and some of them totally intimidate this "old guitar picker" when I attend the CAAS Convention, but when I listen closely, and when there is nothing to hear but the beautiful sound of that most sacred of instruments, I am reminded always of the words of the great Lenny Breau, when he said... and how true it is, "THERE'S ONLY ONE CHET"!

- David Elliott

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