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The official website of Chet Atkins

by Tom Redmond

In 1996, I spent a long Saturday afternoon searching the Internet for information on my musical hero, Chet Atkins.

As a fan of Chet's since high school in the early seventies I was sure that by 1996 Chet must have accumulated a large presence on the web. After all, he wasn't just a "country artist" anymore; he had crossed into the mainstream by recording with the likes of jazzy George Benson and Dire Straits' lead man Mark Knopfler. He'd won Grammys and CMA awards by the score.

I searched for Chet all afternoon, and I was very disappointed.

What I found were a few "corporate" sites that had been put up by the record companies, guitar manufacturers, and his former management company. There was practically nothing from his large body of admiring fans which as we all know, spans the globe. I knew the web would be a way to open up and expose Chet's talent to an every widening medium that was going to grow very quickly

What I wanted to see was a website built for those of us who have a common interest in Chet - a deep love and respect for this humble musical genius from East Tennessee.

I envisioned having lots of pictures of Chet, and specific information on his albums, including the song names and pictures of the album covers.

The very first effort was that I took my personal record collection, and photographed the front and back of each album. At the time, I was working in the Interactive media department of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia. Newspapers were rushing to develop online websites, and I was in the division doing this for the Virginian-Pilot. The newspaper was owned by Landmark Communications, a Norfolk based media headed by Frank Batten, Sr. The company owned newspapers and television stations across the country. They had also recognized the the promise of the growth of cable television and had started The Weather Channel. A friend and coworker, Mike Bateman, built out the database of my record collection so that we could make the list of all of Chet's discography searchable and helped in the construction of the initial content pages. Once the database was as complete as I could make it, we put the site up and it immediately got attention from fans all over the world.

In 1996, I went to my first CAAS convention in Nashville, and met scores of great guitar players and passionate fans and quickly began to get images and quotes, even letters from artists such as Paul Yandell, Buster B. Jones, Thom Bresh, Guy Van Duser, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton, Ray Stevens, Richard Smith, Pat Bergeson, Steve Wariner, Tommy Emmanuel and many others.

Some also granted me interviews, and that opened the door to the lengthy interview series which features folks like Don McLane, Randy Goodrum, Mark O'Connor, Earl Klugh, Mark Knopfler and others. The list is still growing.

It was important that the site would be a place to meet other fans, trade stories and for players of all levels to learn Chet's tunes on the guitar, so we created a bulletin board, first called "The Fretboard" but now known as The Chetboard - www.chetboard.com. For many years, Chet's sideman Paul Yandell visited the Chetboard daily and answered so many questions about Chet that only he could really answer. Players posted videos of themselves playing and they exchanged tabs of Chet's songs. They all wanted the impossible - to play like Chet!

There has been a lot of help along the way. Several early Chet related sites existed in the late 90's and early 2000's through the efforts of folks like Jim Floyd, Larry Kuhns, Dan Bishop, Michael Griffins and Dave Baer. They were and still are, my friends.

Also it is very important to mention the website assistance we have received along the way. In the early Chetboard days, Doug Hendrix did the bulk of the day to day work, coding pages, setting up posting parameters, answering emails from folks needing assistance, and making sure things were running smoothly. Several people helped make sure the discography was complete, including Jim Goode and Ken Goddard.

In recent years, Bob Frye of North Carolina has assisted in fixing page coding issues, updating pages, helping create new content pages and even fixing hacking attempts in the Chetboard forum. We work as a team to keep the website up and running, with the goal of honoring Chet's legacy for all time. Because Chet made so many television appearances, YouTube has become rife with videos of Chet and this has inspired and introduced Chet to even more fans. In 2020, we launched Chet's official Youtube page, and request fans send any video they have of Chet to his estate official email at “misterguitarcgp@gmail.com” Also, many players are shooting cell phone vignettes to share their memories of Chet, and to keep his legacy alive. See this example of fan John Standefer, and the titles at the end tell you how easy it is to make your own for Chet's family and other fans to see. John Standefer remembers Chet:

We welcome anyone to submit your own video like John's. Visit The Chet Channel

Chet was not internet-saavy when we met in 1997, but Paul Yandell, John Knowles and others were very helpful in getting Chet up to speed on the internet and explaining my intentions. I took a trip to Nashville and visited Chet in his office, and also went to breakfast with Chet and some of Nashville's biggest luminaries at the Cracker Barrel.

Chet made Misterguitar.com the Official Website of Chet Atkins a year or so afterwards, the biggest honor of all. Chet's daughter Merle, his grandchildren and their families are now personal friends, as is the executrix of his estate, and I am very grateful for the support and friendship they have offered over the years.

Hope you enjoy the website. Remember, as Lenny Breau once said:

There's only one Chet!

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