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extraordinarily talented musicians, with Haynes playing Django Reinhardt-inspired rhythm guitar and Burns on takeoff mandolin. Along with fiddler Dale Potter and steel guitarist Jerry Byrd, Atkins, Haynes and Burns would form the nucleus for the hot studio string band the Country All- Stars, which would record for RCA Victor in the early 1950s.

In addition to broadcasting with Homer and Jethro, Chet Atkins also began an association with Maybelle Carter and her three daughters, June, Helen, and Anita. In 1950, Chet returned to the Grand Ole Opry, working as a sideman for Hank Williams and the Louvin Brothers in addition to cultivating his own reputation as a stand-out soloist. Two years later, he became Steve Sholes’ assistant, supervising recording sessions for many of RCA Victor’s country artists. When Sholes and RCA practically stole Elvis Presley from the Memphis-based Sun label, Atkins was promoted to head RCA’s studios on 17th Avenue in Nashville. He became director of A&R in 1960.

It is at Chet Atkins’ feet that many people lay the credit and/or the blame for the musical trend known as “The Nashville Sound.” Typified by the removal of traditional country instruments such as the fiddle and steel guitar and replacing them with pianos, orchestras and background vocals, Atkins sought to expand country music’s audience, which was shrinking due to its appropriation by rock and roll. In smoothing out the sound of country music, Atkins accepted the responsibility, but in later years regretted his decision. Still, without the Nashville Sound, artists such as Jim Reeves, Don Gibson, and Eddy Arnold might never have been as successful as they were. The success of the Nashville Sound enabled country music to survive and Atkins was rewarded by being promoted to vice-president of RCA in 1968.

As a recording artist, Chet Atkins became one of RCA Victor’s most prolific and successful acts. His albums transversed the music spectrum. From his first ten-inch LP, “Chet Atkins’ Gallopin’ Guitar” (1954) on, Atkins displayed an eclectic knowledge of songs ranging from popular standards and jazz to movie music, show tunes, and even classical melodies. Aware from the beginning that he was no great singer, Atkins eliminated that part of his performance and utilized his easygoing, laconic voice only for effect, as when he sang duets or novelty songs.


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