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with him in his band. While in Nashville, he made his first records for the tiny Bullet record label. Billed as “Chester Atkins and his All Star Hillbillies,” he recorded an instrumental called “Guitar Blues,” which showed not only his Travis-influenced style, but an amazingly sophisticated sound for one just 21 years old. Later that year, he quit the Opry when an ad agency forced Red Foley to drop a solo spot given to Atkins. He moved on to WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance and then to KWTO in Springfield, Missouri.

Atkins’ next move was to Colorado, where he was playing on KOA in Denver. Through booking agent Si Siman (who was the first person to start calling him Chet), RCA Victor’s Steve Sholes heard a transcription of Atkins performing and tracked him down in Denver. Sholes was looking for RCA’s answer to Capitol’s Merle Travis; a fingerstyle guitar player who could also sing novelty songs. Atkins was hired, beginning a career with RCA that would last for 35 years. On his first session, on August 11, 1947, Chet was surprised to see one of his idols, George Barnes, playing rhythm guitar on his recording session. Chet always loved living in Colorado, and in the state’s honor, named his band the Colorado Mountain Boys.

Chet’s success on records was slow in coming, and the budding recording artist returned to Knoxville where he teamed up with Homer (Henry Haynes) and Jethro (Kenneth Burns). As the bumpkins-cum-parodists Homer and Jethro, the duo were uproarious comedians, but when they weren’t using their alter egos, they proved to be

Photo by David A. Wolfram


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