Next Best Thing: An Interview about Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins

For me, my cousin Sharon DeVault Roach was the next best thing for an interview on Chester Atkins. Her father, who was also my great uncle Buster DeVault, was Chester Atkins’ best friend. They grew up together as neighbors in a Luttrell holler and stayed best friends the rest of their lives. Sharon said they talked every Tuesday on their ham radios. No cellphones or emails in those days.

Growing up, I heard my family talk about Chet and Buster’s relationship. Being a kid at the time, I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what the big deal was until my mom said, “Chet has a picture of him and Buster together on one of his albums.” That’s when my young ears perked up. I replied, “Album? Chet has an album?”

Chet didn’t have just “an album.” His name is on the cover of over a hundred albums. Most are studio and live albums. Some of the others are compilations with other recording artists. Let me tell you, that list is impressive. To name a few: Floyd Cramer, Les Paul, Merle Travis, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Jerry Reed, and Hank Snow. And some of these recordings were nominated for a Grammy award.

And did you know Chet was also a manager and producer for RCA? The list of musicians he produced is just as impressive. Again, here are a few: Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Perry Como, Waylon Jennings, and Don Gibson. He also produced Charlie Pride and helped to get his career started.

Let’s say it together: “Wow!” Talk about a local boy doing good!!

Before we go any further, I want to clarify why I use both the names Chet and Chester. Sharon said he only wanted to be called Chester by family and close friends. Chet was his professional name. I will respect his tradition.

I asked Sharon if she had ever spoken to Chester, and if so, what was her impression of him. She said he was very down to earth, quiet and unassuming. Chester’s success didn’t go to his head. It was very obvious to me that Sharon still admires him.

She also said every time Chester came to visit his momma, he would also spend time with Buster. Her mother Lorena always fixed Chester biscuits and gravy. Guess he couldn’t get biscuits and gravy like Lorena’s in Nashville.

When I first contacted Sharon about doing an interview on Chester, she suggested I read his book first: “Country Gentleman.” She lent me the paperback version, but she has a signed copy. I have to say, it was not at all what I expected.

I had no idea how hard Chet’s life was a young boy. His father walked off and left the family destitute. At times he developed sores which he blamed on malnutrition. And he suffered from bouts of asthma.

Eventually, he was able to get a radio. In those days, most homes had them. You listened to them in the evening instead of watching TV as we do today. Chet listened to the musicians and tried to copy their “licks.” He wanted to learn from them so he could create his own unique sound, which he accomplished.

Sharon said when a young Chester heard the guitars being played on the radio, he thought it was one person playing to sound like two people playing guitars. In actuality, it really was two people playing two different guitars. That is another reason for some of his unique sound.

I was surprised at how Chet lived from paycheck to paycheck early in his career. He went on several tours with other musicians. He even toured with Archie Campbell who performed comedy skits. And he also worked at several radio stations. Radio stations used to have bands that played for their various live programs.

One time he wanted to try out for a job at WNOX in Knoxville, but he didn’t have decent clothes to wear to the audition. Sharon said Buster gave him some of his clothes to wear, but Chester was taller than him. So, Lorena let out the cuffs in the pants for Chester. And yes, he was hired.

One thing that struck me was the lack of confidence Chet had in himself. He lost several jobs at various radio stations, including a stint at the Grand Ole Opry in 1946 where he first met Minnie Pearl. Obviously, the problem wasn’t his skill as much as it was it was the type of music he played. The stations wanted country and hillbilly music. Chet likes to incorporate some pop and jazz into his playing.

At one point, Chet decided to give up on his career. He thought he would try his luck at piano-tuning since his father had done that for a living. His father also gave music lessons. Chet bought the instruments to tune pianos, but he just couldn’t do it.

Chet’s fate changed when the Carter Family came to Knoxville to play on WNOX. They noticed his talent and asked him to join their group. As Sharon said, that put him on the map. After successful tours with the Carters, the Grand Ole Opry took notice. As the old saying goes, “The rest is history.” Better yet; “The rest is country music history.”

There was so much that I learned about Chet (professional) and Chester (personal), that I could not do it justice in one article. If you really want to learn more about him, I would recommend reading his book co-written by Bill Neely, “County Gentleman.” There is also a website: www.misterguitar.com.

Or you could join the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society. They hold a convention mid-July at the Music City Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville. Sharon and her husband Wayne go as guests every year. Like me, Chet’s fans feel that Sharon is the next best thing to Chester Atkins.

Chet really was, is, and always will be a treasure from Union County.

Share

Advertisement

Articles

Operation Christmas Child Event Set for Sept. 18

Operation Christmas Child Event Set for Sept. 18

Operation Christmas Child by Samaritan's Purse, that yearly effort to pack shoeboxes full of necessities for children in some of the world's most threatening situations, is a blessing for the recipients and donors alike.

Just ask Amie Winstead, Area Coordinator for the Operation Christmas Child Cumberland Pathway Team. She's been packing shoeboxes for nine years, and she says the effort "allows us to be foreign missionaries without leaving our hometowns."

Barbecue Event Upcoming for FFA Homecoming Candidate

Future Farmers of America homecoming queen candidate Savannah Jones

Savannah Jones is running for Union County High School's homecoming queen, representing the Horace Maynard Chapter of Future Farmers of America. But she's not in the competition for the glory or the crown. She's in it because she believes in the FFA and the benefits it gives students. The money she raises as a homecoming candidate will go right back into the FFA program.

Norris Lake Five County Cleanup

Norris Lake Cleanup at Oak Grove

The Norris Lake Project Team is looking for volunteers to help with the Fall Five County Norris Lake Cleanups on September 22nd, 29th and October 6th. “Since 2011, volunteers from the counties surrounding Norris Lake have picked up over 200 tons of trash,” said Stephanie Wells, Director of the Anderson County Tourism Council.

4-H Chickens Auctioned

Golden Comet Winners l to r - Chesney, Richardson, Eubanks, Holt, Sexton, Malone, Smith, Farmer

It is common knowledge that 4-H is a club for kids to learn valuable skills and get their hands dirty. This summer, fifteen Union County 4-Hers were busy carrying water, cleaning cages, and gathering eggs as they indulged in the 2018 Poultry Project. They each received twenty chicks in early March and raised the birds from one day old to young laying hens at twenty six weeks old.

When God Speaks

Terry Kirby

In my years as a journalist, I have had the privilege of meeting many authors. Only a few of those acknowledged God as their inspiration and as the One who impressed them to seek a specific writing goal. Dr. Terry L. Kirby is one of those few.

Kirby is an expository preacher, has been a senior pastor for almost twenty-five years and holds a doctorate in Expository Preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He says the Lord gave him the idea for a different type of Bible.

In the World, Not of the World?

Archie Wilson

(As part of a series entitled “Out of the Skillet and Into the Fire”)

John 17:16
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Last time we concluded our 2-part article, JESUS FRIEND OF SINNERS, by pointing out that we should get out of our comfort zones and let our light shine. Someone’s life could be dependent upon you letting your light shine! If Jesus was a “friend of publicans and sinners,” shouldn’t we also do the same?

Crisp Molasses Cookies

Crisp Molasses Cookies

I like molasses. I remember when I was first married and living on the farm, Dad would sprinkle molasses on the milk cows' grain. They loved it. I was curious. The molasses was clean, so I tasted it. It had a better flavor than that you bought in the store back then or nowadays, for that matter. There was no reason not to use it, so I did. We ate a lot of gingerbread and molasses cookies until the molasses ran out. Of course, I didn't tell anybody where the molasses came from. Why bother? Nowadays, don't be concerned. I use Muddy Pond Sorghum when I can find it.

Cool, Man!

Ronnie Mincey

Mincey’s Musings
Year One, Week Thirty-Six

Many people follow the “five second rule”. It goes something like this—if something is dropped on the floor and remains less than five seconds, it is fine to retrieve for consumption by the human body. This holds especially true when referring to the last chip in the bag.

Jesus Picture

Jesus Picture

It’s not something I am too proud of, but I did it. Or rather I didn’t do it. You see, I got out of church for a while. After I started back, I realized I didn’t have any pictures of Jesus in the house. So, guess what I did next? Yep. I went Jesus picture shopping.

I looked at all kinds of Jesus pictures and none of them felt right. Finally, I found one that I really, really liked. That is until I looked at the price tag. You know, it just didn’t seem right to go in debt for it. I didn’t think Jesus would like that.

Identifying Pesky Poop

Bat Poop

I really enjoyed my career as a forester, partly because of the variety. It was rare that I did the same thing two days in a row. I could be walking in the woods collecting field data in the morning and be on a wildfire that afternoon. If you like routine, forestry is not for you. One unique task I did on occasion was identifying animal poop, especially when people would find droppings in their house and badly wanted to know what uninvited visitor left it.

Tags: 

Events

Luttrell neighborhood watch

Thursday, September 20, 2018 - 19:00
Luttrell neighbourhood watch

Luttrell neighbourhood watch meeting every 3rd Tuesday at 7:00pm It takes place in the community building behind the library with speakers each month this can be a great tool for our community to assist one another in brotherly love by watching out for each other. If you need more information contact Jim Bailey at 865-809-4472

Thank you so much
Union County Sheriff's Office
130 veteran’s street suite B Maynardville Tennessee 37807
Phone 865-992-5212
Fax 865-992-2349

Free Eye Exams and Glasses!

Saturday, September 29, 2018 - 08:00

FREE EYE EXAM AND GLASSES AVAILABLE FOR UNION COUNTY RESIDENTS
(South Claiborne County, Washburn, Powder Springs, and Corryton also welcome)
Sponsored by the Union County Lions Club
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
150 Main Street, Maynardville, TN 37807 (Union County High School)
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY!
Call Kathy Chesney at (865) 566-3289
Glasses will be distributed 2-3 weeks after this event.
Sponsored by the Union County Lions Club,
In conjunction with the Smokey Mountains Lions Charities.

Hogskin Festival

Saturday, September 29, 2018 - 11:00
Spinning wheel

On Saturday, September 29th, Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center will hold its 19th annual Hogskin History Day Celebration from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This event is family friendly and provides a fun way to celebrate the rich culture and history of our Hogskin Valley community in Grainger County. Event attractions include local musicians, artists, artisans, and historians; children’s activities; exhibits of alternative technology; tours of Narrow Ridge’s eco-friendly facilities and Natural Burial Preserve; a silent auction; good food; and a variety of local vendor and display booths.

Obituary

Melvin Corum

Melvin Corum – age 78 of Maynardville, passed away peacefully at his home with his loving wife of 60 years by his side on Saturday, September 15, 2018. He was a member of Fellowship Christian Church in Luttrell. He especially loved the yearly fall festival and The Life of Christ drive thru exhibit. Melvin was a dirt track race car driver and won many championship races during his career. His latest hobby was restoring vintage cars and trucks.

Glen C. Carmon, Sr.

Glen C. Carmon, Sr.-age 72 of Maynardville passed away Monday morning, September 17, 2018 at Willow Ridge Center. Glen was a member of Fairview Baptist Church and a U. S. Army Veteran. Preceded in death by parents, Thurman and Hester Carmon; brother, Ed Carmon; sister, Ina Carmon.

Survivors: son, Carroll Carmon of Maynardville; daughter, Jennifer Buckner and husband, Tony of Luttrell; three grandchildren, Kali Buckner, Caleb Carmon and Christian Carmon; sisters, Mary Campbell, Marie Johnson and Betty Williams, all of Maynardville. Several nieces and nephews.

George David "Dave" Murphy

George “Dave” David Murphy, Sr., age 63, of Powell went to be with the Lord on September 16, 2018. He was a member of Central View Baptist Church. He enjoyed farming, raising pigs, and working. He adored his grandchildren. He loved helping people, as he would give you his last of anything. He was a selfless man of God. Preceded in death by parents Hobert and Christine Murphy; and brother Phillip Murphy. Survived by his wife of 45 years Kathy Murphy; children David Murphy, Jr.

Ermon T. Bullen, Jr.

Ermon T. Bullen, Jr.-May 2, 1932-Sept 14, 2018 of Corryton, known by everyone as Junior Bullen originally from Washburn, born to the late Ermon T. Bullen, Sr and Hila Johnson Bullen. Preceded in death by the love of his life of 58 years, Mildred Marsee Bullen. Junior was an Army Veteran and retired maintenance man from Claiborne County Hospital. He also loved traveling with Mamaw, watching grandkids and great grandkids at sporting events, plays and such and faithfully attended church where he was a member at Union Missionary Baptist Church.

Carl Edward Fielden

Carl Edward Fielden, age 84 of Halls Crossroads, peacefully entered into his eternal rest in the presence of his Lord Jesus Christ on September 15, 2018. Saved by God's merciful grace as a young man, Carl was a faithful member of Emory Valley Baptist Church. He served his country in the United States Air Force, honorably. He retired from Fairmont Supply located in Nashville, Tennessee. Preceded in death by parents Hobert and Amy Fielden, son Greg Fielden, all of Heiskell, sister Ann Tudor of Manchester, sister Geneieve Humphrey and brother Rev. Glen Fielden, all of Knoxville.

Raymond Eugene Clark

Raymond Eugene Clark age 71, of Knoxville went to be with with his Heavenly Father on Thursday, September 13, 2018 at his home surrounded by family. He was a member of Texas Valley Baptist Church. Raymond lived most of his life in the Halls Community and was an avid sports fan of all Halls community and school sports teams. He was often thought of as the Honorary “Mayor” and Cheerleader of the Halls Community. Preceded in death by parents; Jack Raymond and Allene Wooten Clark. Survivors; sisters, Rosalee Clark Highland and Diane Clark Woods. Brother; Phillip David Clark.

James Warren "J.W." Hughes

James Warren "J.W." Hughes, age 82, of Halls Crossroads went to his heavenly home, Thursday morning, surrounded by his family. He was a member of Fairview Freewill Baptist Church. He served in the U.S. Army and retired from Jefferson Smurfit Corp. J.W. loved the outdoors; hunting, fishing and camping.

He is preceded in death by parents, C.M and Mary Hughes; and brother-in-law, Leon Spangler.

Mitchell Elvis Kitts

Mitchell Elvis Kitts-age 62 of Luttrell passed away suddenly Saturday, September 8, 2018 while away in Florida for work.

Mitchell was a Journeyman painter who took pride in his craft. He was employed by Larry Mitchell Painting Company. Over the years he coached his son’s youth baseball teams in the Knoxville Area. He was an avid fisherman and loved spending time with his boys on the lake.

Myrtle Anne Covington

Myrtle Anne Covington-age 59 of Sevierville passed away Sunday, September 9, 2018 at Physicians Regional Medical Center with her husband by her side. Those who knew Ann will remember her kindness and sense of humor. She was a member of Walnut Hill Baptist Church.

Velma Lozena Dyer Davis

Velma Lozena Dyer Davis, age 87, born at home on April 9, 1931 in Luttrell, TN and passed away on September 8, 2018 after losing her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She retired from Standard Knitting Mill. Velma was a member of Greenway Baptist Church for over 60 years and a member of the Golden Circle Sunday School Class. She loved her garden, especially picking and canning her green beans. Her life was spent caring for other people, especially her family who she loved with all her heart.

The opinions expressed by columnists and those providing comments are theirs alone, and may not reflect the opinions of Russell Computer Systems, Inc or any employee thereof.