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Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player

When: Aug. 12-June 1 2012

The Country Music Hall of Fame’s superb new Chet Atkins exhibit opens this weekend, and the title — Chet Atkins: Certified Guitar Player — is a modest description of the contributions of a man who was far more than just a picker. Born in 1924 in Luttrell, Tenn., Atkins grew up as a disciple of such guitarists as Django Reinhardt and Les Paul. Atkins played his share of country music, but he was a wide-ranging musician who found his calling when he came to Nashville in the 1940s. Certified Guitar Player gives Atkins his due as a guitarist — you’ll see plenty of amazing Gretsches and Gibsons — but the exhibit makes clear what an influential producer and executive he was as well. The opening weekend begins with a curator’s introduction on Friday afternoon, continues with a panel discussion on Atkins’ legacy on Saturday featuring Ray Stevens, Billy Edd Wheeler and Steve Wariner, and includes two events on Sunday: a demonstration of Atkins’ guitar techniques by the young picker Ben Hall, and a screening of the 2000 documentary film Chet Atkins: A Life in Music. Few performers in any idiom have combined dazzling instrumental prowess with such a savvy sense of the marketplace.

Edd Hurt

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