When I First Heard Chet
Richard Vogh - Georgia
I first heard Chet Atkins when I was 15 on a record my parents bought for my brother. My brother, 8 at the time, was and still is deeply into drumming. My parents
found "Caribbean Guitar" in a record store and brought it home for my brother's birthday. There is no picture of Chet on that album. My parents were hoping for a lot of
bongo playing and so on, in some upbeat latin music. They were disappointed in their purchase. My brother didn't get to drum along with the music much from that
I heard it, and was captivated by the guitar. I had to find out more about that sound, and who who was doing it, and how.
From that one album, I had no idea that it came from Nashville. I didn't find out about fingerstyle picking, or thumbpicks from that first one. But there was no ignoring
that beautiful music.
I gradually collected other Chet Atkins albums, and had over a dozen by the time I left home for college. By then I had found out who was doing it and some about
how. I continued to collect Chet Atkins albums.
I never was able to pick a proper Chet-style. I did learn a lot of things from those albums, like playing chords with alternating bass, and using a
thumbpick. (I quit using
flatpicks altogether a long time ago. I was always dropping them, anyway.) But I never did master alternating bass, chords and melody. Still haven't. Maybe it will
click someday. I am in awe of those of you who can actually do it, and especially those of you who had it happening after within a year or two after first hearing
No one I knew in those days had any interest in playing like that, so I assumed it was a feat that only Chet could accomplish. Only a few guitar players I met back then
even knew about it. I grew up in Florida, and thought I was the only Chet Atkins fan in Florida. I figured the rest of the fans were located close to Nashville.
I carried that first record off to college with me. My brother never got it back! In October of 1997, I took it with me to the Mountain Hill School in Georgia, where the
Chet Atkins Parkway dedication ceremony was held. (The Chet Atkins Parkway is most of I-185 in Georgia.)
There after the ceremony, and just before he left the Mountain Hill School, perhaps for the last time, a very frail Chet Atkins autographed that Caribbean Guitar album for me.