Superpicker Chet Atkins (1924-2003) had an awful lot of influence on the growth of the country music industry and the stylistic direction the music took in the post-WWII era. He played on a bazillion hillbilly and pop sessions in the late '40s and early '50s, and perfected a super-smooth, note-perfect style that many will say has never been matched. More importantly, though, was his work as head of A&R for RCA Nashville, where Atkins had a formative impact on the development of country music. Not an entirely positive influence, to be sure, since he was a primary architect of the dreaded, overly-sophisticated "Nashville Sound," which in turn led to the even more dreaded "countrypolitan" pop-country fusion of the late 1960s and '70s, and by extension, every pop-oriented stylistic watering down ever since... Still, the dude is a legend, and deservedly so. Here's a quick look at his work.

Discography: 1940s-1960s | 1970-2003 | Best-Ofs

Chet Atkins "Yestergroovin' " (RCA, 1970) (LP)

Chet Atkins "Solid Gold '70" (RCA, 1970) (LP)

Chet Atkins "Pickin' My Way" (RCA, 1970)

Chet Atkins & The Nashville String Band "Down Home" (RCA, 1970) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed "Me & Jerry" (RCA, 1970)

Chet Atkins & Hank Snow "C.B. Atkins & C.E. Snow - By Special Request" (RCA, 1970) (LP)

Chet Atkins "For The Good Times... And Other Country Moods" (RCA, 1971) (LP)
Quick note: the word "moods" in the context of any late 1960s/early '70s Nashville album means "bad," or more precisely, "cheesy." This is always true, no exceptions. How bad is this album? Well, it won a Grammy in 1971 for an instrumental version of Anne Murray's "Snowbird." That's how bad. You've been warned.

Chet Atkins & The Nashville String Band "Strung Up" (RCA, 1971) (LP)

Chet Atkins & The Nashville String Band "Identified!" (RCA, 1971) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed "Me & Chet" (RCA, 1972)

Chet Atkins "...Picks On The Hits" (RCA, 1972)

Chet Atkins & The Nashville String Band "The Bandit" (RCA, 1972) (LP)

Chet Atkins & The Nashville String Band "World's Greatest Melodies" (RCA, 1972) (LP)

Chet Atkins/Floyd Cramer/Boots Randolph "Chet, Floyd & Boots" (RCA, 1972)

Chet Atkins With Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops "American Salute" (RCA, 1972) (LP)

Chet Atkins "Alone" (RCA, 1973)

Chet Atkins "Superpickers" (RCA, 1973)

Chet Atkins "...Picks On Jerry Reed" (RCA, 1974) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Merle Travis "The Atkins-Travis Traveling Show" (RCA, 1974)
(Won the 1974 Grammy for Best Country Instrumental)

Chet Atkins "The Night Atlanta Burned" (RCA, 1975)

Chet Atkins "...Goes To The Movies" (RCA, 1975) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Les Paul "Chester & Lester" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 1976/2007)
(Various producers)

A swell reissue (with bonus tracks) of this super-mellow, but super-fabled collaboration between two of the most highly regarded super-pickers of the last century. Les Paul perfected the solid-body electric guitar, and Chet Atkins was certainly one of the players who made the most of his invention. The two old coots were certainly on the same wavelength and completely simpatico with each other, as they glide through these super-mellow versions of evergreens such as "Avalon," "Caravan," Moonglow" and "Deed I Do..." It's a bit too softcore for me, but others, particularly guitarists who want to learn the tricks of the masters, will find this set to be a real treasure. (Note: the 2007 reissue includes four bonus tracks, including some more informal-sounding rehearsals...)

Chet Atkins "Me And My Guitar" (RCA, 1977)

Chet Atkins/Floyd Cramer/Danny Davis "Chet, Floyd & Danny" (RCA, 1977) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Les Paul "Guitar Monsters" (RCA, 1978)

Chet Atkins "...And The First Nashville Guitar Quartet" (RCA, 1979)

< (1979) with Liona Boyd, John Knowles and John Pell >

Chet Atkins & Doc Watson "Reflections" (Sugar Hill, 1980)

Chet Atkins "Country After All These Years" (RCA, 1981) (LP)

Chet Atkins & Lenny Breau "Standard Brands" (CBS, 1981)
Like Chet Atkins, jazz guitarist Lenny Breau has serious country roots: he was the son of New England hillbilly stars Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody, and played in their family band as a kid. So he and Chet are kindred spirits, as you can hear on this groovy duos set...

Chet Atkins "Work It Out With Chet Atkins C.G.P." (CBS, 1983) (LP)

Chet Atkins "East Tennessee Christmas" (CBS, 1983)

Chet Atkins/Various Artists "Stay Tuned" (Columbia, 1983)

Chet Atkins "Street Dreams" (Columbia, 1986)

Chet Atkins "Sails" (Columbia, 1987)

Chet Atkins "Chet Atkins, C.G.P." (Columbia, 1988)

Chet Atkins & Mark Knopfler "Neck & Neck" (Columbia, 1990)

Chet Atkins & Jerry Reed "Sneakin' Around" (Columbia, 1991)

Chet Atkins & Amy Grant "The Gingham Dog And The Calico Cat" (Rabbit Ears, 1993)
A children's spoken word story album, made with Christian pop star Amy Grant.

Chet Atkins "Read My Licks" (1994)

Chet Atkins & Suzy Bogguss "Simpatico" (Liberty, 1994)
Darn. This album opens with a fun, jauntily stripped-down acoustic version of the Jimmie Rodgers oldie, "In The Jailhouse Now" -- exactly the kind of sound I was hoping this album would have -- but it soon slides into soft, over-orchestrated Nashville pop, stuff that misses the mark, as far as I'm concerned. There are a couple of tunes that dip back into the simpler style (and they are also pretty nice), but this is one of those guess-they-just-can't-help-themselves outings in which two talented artists who have sometimes-rootsy leanings let their love of studio technique get the best of them. These two are, indeed, simpatico, but their compatibility extends to the poppy stuff as well as the more traditional.

Chet Atkins "Almost Alone" (Columbia Nashville, 1996)

Chet Atkins & Tommy Emmanuel "The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World" (1997)

Chet Atkins "Solo Sessions" (CGP Records, 2003)


Hick Music Index

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