Born in Luttrell, Tennessee in 1924, Chet Atkins was the baby of his family. He suffered from severe asthma and had to sleep sitting up in a hardback chair in order to breathe. His first instrument was a ukulele, followed by fiddle, and finally, at the age of 9, he worked a trade with his older brother Lowell - an old pistol and some chores - for a guitar.
Chet Atkins, himself inspired by guitar greats Django Reinhardt (whom he named the most influential guitarist of the 20th century), Merle Travis, and Les Paul, developed a style of playing that used his first three fingers for picking and his thumb for bass, creating a very defined and unique sound all his own.
Chet Atkins began producing for RCA in the mid-1950s, being put in charge of RCA's Nashville division. Here he was instrumental in creating RCA Studio B, the first studio built exclusively for recording on what became the now famous "Music Row." He became vice-president of RCA's country division and brought several artists to the label, including Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Jerry Reed. He retired from producing in the 1970s after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
Besides being an amazing musician and producer, Chet Atkins also worked as a design consultant with guitar manufacturer Gretsch who created a line of electric guitars that bore his name from 1955-1980, when he began designing guitars with Gibson.
Chet Atkins inspired many guitarists including Mark Knopfler, Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel and Eric Johnson. He won 14 Grammys, 9 CMA awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Billboard's Century Award. He died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee in 2001.
Tiger Rag by Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins website