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Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to Open Chet Atkins Exhibit

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Opening Festivities to Include Panel Discussion, Curator’s Exhibit Talk, Film Screenings and More

The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum will pay tribute to one of country music’s most versatile and visionary artists, Chet Atkins, with Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player, a biographical exhibit opening Friday, August 12, 2011, for a 10-month run in the Museum’s East Gallery.  The exhibition, which is made possible through the generous support of the Gretsch Company with additional support provided by Great American Country Television Network, will run through June 11, 2012.

Opening weekend festivities will include an exhibit introduction and talk by a Museum curator; a panel discussion featuring Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner and Billy Edd Wheeler and illustrated with photos, film footage and recordings from the Museum’s Frist Library and Archive; a film screening and more.  

The exhibit will be accompanied by a richly detailed, lavishly illustrated, 96-page companion book, also titled Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player. Published by the Museum’s Country Music Foundation Press, the volume will include essays by noted Atkins authorities Walter Carter (on Chet and his guitars), Michael Cochran (on Chet’s life and career), Rich Kienzle (on Chet’s development and prowess as a guitarist) and Museum Senior Historian John Rumble (on Chet’s work as a producer and record label executive). Also included are tributes to Chet from Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles, and Steve Wariner, recipients of Chet’s honorary C.G.P. designation; from Mark Pritcher, president of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society; and from Fred W. Gretsch, president of the Gretsch Company.  The book will be available in the Museum Store and at www.countrymusichalloffame.org.

“Chet Atkins was country music’s ultimate Renaissance man, one of the greatest instrumentalists in American music history and a true musical savant,” said Museum Director Kyle Young.  “His signature guitar licks shaped recordings by scores of legendary artists, including the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley and Kitty Wells, and his playing influenced future rock gods Duane Eddy, George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and many more.  As a producer, Chet was an architect of the ‘Nashville Sound’; he was also a brilliant record executive who signed and propelled a generation of country artists – including Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Charley Pride – to fame.  Chet’s guiding hand shaped much of the bedrock of country music, and we’re honored to tell his story, one we know will resonate with country fans old and new.

“We are grateful to Chet’s family and friends for sharing their mementos and memories and allowing us to tell this extraordinary tale.”

Born Chester Burton Atkins on June 20, 1924, in Luttrell, Tenn., Chet Atkins became one of the most respected musicians and producers in American music history.   His unparalleled achievements were acknowledged formally with his 1973 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Atkins died on June 30, 2001, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.

Employing a wealth of instruments, vintage photos, personal possessions and correspondence, career-spanning audio and video and more, Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player will explore the life and impact of this incomparable musician, producer and executive.

Nearly 20 of Atkins’ guitars will be featured in the exhibit, including the following:

* Chet’s first guitar, a Sears Silvertone he acquired at age 11 and upon which he taught himself to play

* Chet’s 1938 Gibson L-10; the guitar was custom-designed for its original owner, Les Paul, and handed over to Atkins in 1945

* A 1948 Gibson L-7 guitar used by Atkins in the recording studio, and onstage with Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, in the late 1940s

* Four Gretsch Chet Atkins model guitars, including a 1976 fire-engine-red Gretsch Chet Atkins Super Axe

Other notable artifacts include:

* A recording contract with Bullet Recording Co., dated July 20, 1946, stating that for Atkins’ recording of “Pickin’ the Blues,” the artist would receive a “one-cent royalty for all records listed to sell at a retail price of more than 50 cents.”

* Atkins’ 1954 guitar instruction manual, Chet Atkins Guitar Method

* A meticulous re-construction of the work-bench and shelves in Chet’s basement home studio, including tools, meters and personal effects including photos of Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens and others

* Atkins’ framed C.G.P. (“Certified Guitar Player”) diploma, which he bestowed on himself in 1997

Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player Grand Opening Month Program Schedule

All programs are included with Museum admission and free to Museum members, except as noted below.

Friday, August 12                        1:30 p.m.

Curator’s Exhibit Talk
A museum curator offers an introduction to Chet Atkins:  Certified Guitar Player.

Saturday, August 13                        1:30 p.m.

Panel Discussion
Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner, Billy Edd Wheeler and others discuss Atkins’ legacy.

Sunday, August 14                        1:00 p.m.

Guitar Demonstration: Ben Hall
The 2005 International Thumbstyle Guitar Champion, Ben Hall has performed or recorded with Charlie Louvin, Jeannie Seely and others. Hall will demonstrate the thumb-pick style of Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.

Sunday, August 14                        2:00 p.m.

Film Screening: TBD

Sunday, August 21                        2:00 p.m.

Film Screening: TBD

Saturday, August 27                        2:00 p.m.

Concert: Tommy Emmanuel C.G.P. Salutes Chet Atkins
Tommy Emmanuel, one of a handful of legatees upon whom Atkins bestowed the C.G.P. designation, performs songs from Atkins’ catalog.

Sunday, August 28                        1:00 p.m.

Instrument Demonstration:  John Knowles, C.G.P
John Knowles, one of a handful of legatees upon whom Atkins bestowed the C.G.P. designation, demonstrates some of what he learned from Atkins.

Sunday, August 28                        2:00 p.m.

Film Screening: TBD

For more information, visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum website.

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