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Date this web site was last edited:  12/06/2015






When I First Heard Chet

Dan Smith

When I was about 14, I went to visit some friends in Washington State. They had several records of people I had never heard of before. Slim Whitman, Homer and Jethro, and Chet Atkins being among the collection. They had an album that included the song Freight Train. They also had The Guitar Genius, and an 8-Track tape of The Most Popular Guitar. I liked the records of Chet, but to be honest, I think his music was way over my head. It was so different from anything I was familiar with. I had never really heard guitar played that way and I had never heard any of the tunes. All my friends were playing House of the Rising Sun, Wipe Out, and Proud Mary. It wasn't until perhaps a year later when I met a boy named Clay Scribner at a church camp that I found out more about Chet. Clay was a much better guitar player than I was but not a finger style player himself. But apparently Clay's dad, who I never met, could play some of Chet's stuff. Clay showed me the basics of it. I think what really hooked me though was when I brought home the Me and Jerry record and put it on the phonograph. That purchase was shortly followed by Me and Chet. My friend Kenny Alteneder (now my brother in law) was with me when I bought it. I still remember how excited I was to get that record home and play it. I guess I was so excited that I forgot to turn the speed switch from 45 RPM to 33 RPM. First time I ever heard Jerry's breakdown was on 45 RPM. I was still impressed at 33 RPM. I've worn out a lot of Chet Atkins records in the 30 years since then. I'm glad they are becoming available on CD now. Some of those old albums have so many pops and scratches that they sounds like a rip roarin' fire in the fireplace when you play them.