The inspiration for Tommy’s transformation? That would be guitar legend Chet Atkins, who represented to Tommy the pinnacle of guitar playing. One man, one guitar, and unlimited, passionate song. Like Dylan, who made a pilgrimage from the Midwest to New York to meet his idol, Woody Guthrie, Tommy always knew he had to get to Chet. To let Chet hear his music, which had been so shaped by his years listening, and absorbing, Chet’s genius.
When he finally made that trek around the globe to meet the man himself, in Nashville, their bond was immediate, and like their music, existed beyond words. Chet picked up his guitar, and the two men jammed joyously for hours. It started a lifelong friendship which shaped Tommy’s music forever. Chet welcomed Tommy into guitarist knighthood by bestowing upon him the coveted title of CGP (Certified Guitar Player), an honor awarded only to four other humans ever. Though already devoted to the life of a solo player, receiving the love and esteem of Chet lifted Tommy into a different realm. Because, as Chet recognized instantly and told the world, musicians like this don’t come along that often; pay attention to this man. Of course, Chet knew of what he spoke. Tommy’s triumph on his singular solo path has been extraordinary. From the Midget Surfaries he’s become beloved and revered around the planet for the music. And, for the joy.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to be in show business. Now, I just want to be in the happiness business. I make music, and you get happy. That’s a good job.”
– Tommy Emmanuel