Thursday, June 20, 2024

Picker Perfect: Chet Atkins 100

Chet Atkins - Don't Monkey 'Round My Widder (with Doc Watson)

Would you just behold that? The Blogger code is apparently repaired, so let's get down to centennial time, wanna?

Today's happy hundred belongs to a guitar slinger for the epochs, imitated by all but equaled by few.

Heralded as the man who brought Travis picking into the pop and rock guitar vocabulary, this Country Gentleman from Clinch Mountain, Tennessee was a central luminary figure in the foundations of what we now call Americana.

Back in the day, at its infancy, it was called The Nashville Sound and it helped bring Country music into the modern communications age.

Idolized by innumerable guitarists of all genres, from Paul McCartney to Steve Howe to Danny Gatton, his relaxed yet devastatingly precise -- and always, always funky as a junebug's underwear -- playing defined a whole area of guitar for millions.

His whole life changed one night listening to the radio in 1939, when the budding guitarist heard Merle Travis and his then-revolutionary picking style, that became an essential approach across so many musical worlds.

He began his ascent on the radio dial in the early 1940s in Knoxville and then Cincinnati, eventually signing to RCA in 1946 after debuting on the Grand Ole Opry with The Carter Family.

Soon he was put in charge of the RCA Nashville studios and began a second career as a sought-after producer, in addition to the myriad hits he had on his own during the 1950s, when his star really took off.

One of the first musos to have his own studio in his home, his career exploded to the heavens after an appearance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, beginning to cross over into more than just Country climes.

As much a Jazz musician as a Country picker, his Django-inflected stylings affected a whole galaxy of players across the second half of the 20th Century as almost no other.

He passed in 2001 after a career spent seismically altering the fabric and the DNA of the sounds around us.

How do you properly honor a player as far-reaching as Chet Atkins? I've spent the last week working this thing up because 1) there's precious few unissued/archival recordings of him and 2) I remember watching these shows in the 1980s, when they aired.

Chet Atkins
Nashville Now
Gaslight Theater
Opryland, USA
Nashville, Tennessee USA

01 Ready for the Times to Get Better (with Paul Yandell)
02 Harlequin Romance
03 Rocky Top  (with Paul Yandell)
04 Don't Monkey 'Round My Widder (with Doc Watson)
05 Country Pickin' (with Doc Watson)
06 Gallopin' Guitar (with Mark O'Connor & Paul Yandell)
07 House of the Rising Sun (with Mark O'Connor & Paul Yandell)
08 Pickin' with the Wind (with Mark O'Connor & Paul Yandell)
09 Sweet Georgia Brown (with Paul Yandell & Jerry Douglas)
10 Help Me Make It Through the Night
11 Alabama Jubilee (with Bela Fleck & Jerry Douglas)
12 Wildwood Flower (with Steve Warner)
13 Yankee Doodle Dixie
14 Danny Boy
15 The Orange Blossom Special
16 Mr. Bojangles (with Mark O'Connor)
17 Birth of the Blues (with Bela Fleck & Jerry Douglas)
18 Classical Gas 
19 Sails (with Steve Warner)
20 Would Jesus Wear A Rolex?
21 In the Good Old Summertime
22 Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) (with Don McLean)
23 Steeplechase Lane
24 Meet Mister Callaghan
25 Jethro's Tune (with Paul Yandell)
Total time: 1:19:34

Chet Atkins - guitar & vocals throughout, with myriad guests on various stringed instruments and occasional vocals
announcer is Ralph Emery, who if I'm not mistaken was a drug store, truck drivin' man 

320/48k mono audio extracts, from an HD YouTube file, of Chet Atkins' 1980s "Nashville Now" appearances on The Nashville Network
converted to 16/44 CD Audio, compiled, tracked, denoised, repaired & remastered by EN, June 2024
I apologize, but the tape chew issues in a few of the tunes were essentially unfixable 
spectral analysis goes to 20 kHz, so this is more or less equivalent to a preFM source
352 MB FLAC/direct link

These suffer from occasional tape chew in a few places, for which I apologize, but overall the music is exquisitely gorgeous and elegantly rendered, so I strove to not let the perfect become the enemy of the good in this case. You'll note the MC is Ralph Emery, immortalized in song by The Byrds after a notorious 1968 Nashville run-in with the man.

More great than good, these performances illustrate as well as any just what sort of towering figure of the guitar Chet Atkins was and remains, even a quarter century gone. And remember, don't you monkey 'round his widder when he's gone, or he'll haunt your ass!--J.

6.20.1924 - 6.30.2001

No comments:

Post a Comment