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:

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.



Get Your Morning Mojo at Liquid Lightning

Liquid Lightning

It is a great time to be a coffee drinker in Maynardville. Whether you are waking up early headed to work, finishing up the morning school drop offs, or just plain love to guzzle coffee all day, with one sip you will be sure to add a new stop to your daily route. Liquid Lightning, a local veteran owned and operated coffee shop, has opened their doors and put the go-juice on to brew with a goal of bringing delicious coffee, lots of laughs, and a sense of joy and comfort to the community.

Win for Author Kaye George

Kaye George

Knoxville TN: Local author Kaye George took home a second place win from BOULD (Bizarre, Outrageous, Unfettered, Limitless, Daring) for her short story Dream Girl. The story is published in BOULD Awards Short Story Anthology and is now available on Amazon.

Shirleys Bread

Shirley's Bread

I got a call from Aaron Russell the other day. He was checking to see how I was doing. He hadn't talked with me in a while. During the conversation, he mentions that he likes to bake bread. Not just any bread, but salt-rising bread. He described the process as well as how good the bread tastes. That got me thinking.

Ambulance Selfie

Ambulance Selfie

“Well, you always want an adventure!” Lynda locked the car doors.

It’s an interesting story how we had gotten to that point. Lynda is my best friend and cousin. We played ball together, ran around together, and went to the same middle and high school.

George Washington Cherry Treat

George Washington Cherry Treat

Fresh pie cherries aren't available in February. That's okay. Food City does my canning for me these days. They have one pound cans of red tart cherries on the shelf every day. I call them sour cherries.

Do you really think George cut down a cherry tree? Do you really think he fested up to the deed? Naw. George was known as a ladies man. I wouldn't be surprised if he did tell a lie now and then.

Science versus Faith

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal once said, “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing… We know truth, not only by reason, but also by the heart.”

Pascal was a genius and a genuine polymath who lived in the 17th century. To cover his accomplishments and body of work would require volumes, which have already been written. I want to focus on the concept he so poetically illustrated above – the ever-present battle between the head and the heart. Specifically,

Cherry Creme Fudge

Cherry Creme Fudge

Here is a fudge recipe I made a long time ago, that is, if you call 1981 a long time ago. Fudge recipes have evolved over the years. They are easier to make now. Just cook up some sugar and evaporated milk. Add chocolate and marshmallow cream and you have fudge. But it is not the same as the old fashioned variety. Oldsters will agree with me. (I will share one of those recipes at a later date.).

Failed Back Surgery Is Relatively Common

Failed Back Surgery Is Relatively Common

Failed back surgery (continued low back and leg pain after surgery) is relatively common according to a new report from the Boston University School of Medicine. With each reoperation, success, as defined by pain reduction, becomes less likely and most patients do not improve. However, preliminary studies using a simple procedure to remove scar tissue or adhesions suggests a new treatment could help those with post-surgical, chronic low back pain.

The German Beer Stein

German Beer Stein

I have had a beautiful beer stein since World War II. My brother, Rodney, sent it back from Germany. He was part of a Navy goodwill tour that started at England then went on to Germany. He sent back two beer steins and a Black Forest coo coo clock from there.

When he returned home, Rod took back the coo coo clock and one beer stein. That left me with one beer stein. I have placed that beautiful beer stein in a prominent place in my home as I moved around the country. It is time to give it a permanent home while I am still here to do so.


Interested in Homeschooling?

Monday, February 25, 2019 - 18:00

Join us for our annual Mom's night out. Monday, February 25, at six pm when April Shepherd, from the Smoky Mountain Home Education Association will be speaking at Hardees. April, a proponent of country living and a successful homeschooling Mother, will be speaking on using everyday living to teach fundamentals and life skills. She has titled her talk, "Little House on the Prairie Schooling". Sponsored by the local support group of homeschooling families, more information can be obtained by contacting Connie Dickey @ 865-992-3629

Mens Conference

Friday, March 1, 2019 - 19:00
Alder Springs Missionary Baptist Church

Alder Springs Missionary Baptist Church will be hosting a Men’s Conference on Friday, March 1st at 7:00 P.M. and Saturday, March 2nd at 9:30 A.M.
Evangelists will be Rev. Jerry Vittatoe and Rev. Mike Viles. Pastor, Rev. Jimmy Davidson extends a hearty welcome to all men.

4-H County Baking Contest

Monday, March 18, 2019 - 17:00

After youth have participated in school during February, they will be awarded a blue ribbon to move forward to the county contest. The entries at the county will be due for judging on March 18 then displayed with awards at the Extension Month Open House on March 19 for sampling.


Janice Ann Beeler Fields

Janice Ann Beeler Fields-age 66 of Corbin, Kentucky passed away suddenly Monday morning, February 18, 2019 at her home. She was a loving mother, nana, sister and friend. She will be sadly missed by all. Janice was a member of Nave Hill Baptist Church and was a former co-owner of Fields Apparel in Monticello, Kentucky. She was recently employed at SEKRI, Corbin, Kentucky for 22 years. Preceded in death by parents, James Aubrey and Lillie Beeler, two brothers, Gary and Terry Beeler; nephew, Adam Beeler.

Robert Bradley Douglas

Robert Bradley Douglas, known as Brad Douglas, was born October 12th, 1978. Brad spent his life in the Knoxville area embracing the Tennessee Volunteers, fishing and hiking. Brad's favorite thing to do was to take him and his family exploring. It is with great sadness that the family of Brad Douglas announces his passing at the age of 40. His spirit, enthusiasm and willingness to put other's needs above his own will be missed but not forgotten.

Robert Bruce Kezer

R. Bruce Kezer-age 84 of Knoxville departed this world for heaven on February 15 from his home. His family was at his side. Born in Jersey City, NJ, on September 30, 1934 to Edwin and Ruth (Adams) Kezer, Bruce graduated from the University of Vermont in 1957. He then entered the US Army and served, in peacetime, for three years until being honorably discharged at the rank of Lieutenant. Bruce loved Jesus with all his heart, and worked to live instead of the other way around.

Thomas Michael McLaughlin

Thomas M. McLaughlin age 57 currently of Maynardville TN, formerly of Edison NJ, passed away on February 8th 2019 at UT Hospital following an exhausting battle with cancer. Preceded in death by father, Thomas W, and brother Michael W McLaughlin.

Survived by wife Kathie, daughter and son-in-law Jennifer McLaughlin and Josh Lamb, son TJ, mother Elaine, sister and brother-in-law Lori and Gary Yurchak, grandchildren Chris and Michael, as well as a host of other relatives and friends.

Judson "Juddy" Bailey

Judson “Juddy“ Bailey - age 79 of Washburn, was born on February 27, 1939 and passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 10, 2019. We all called him Pap. He was a member of Nave Hill Baptist Church. He loved his family, hunting, playing cards, dogs and driving around. He spent his last few months putting on his shoes and saying “I believe I will go home”. He is finally “home“, peacefully in the arms of Jesus.

Frances Jane Nichols

Frances Jane Nichols “Janey”, age 61, of Rockford, went to be with the Lord on February 8, 2019, surrounded by her loved ones. She was a beloved mom, sister, and granny. Preceded in death by parents Jack Huggins and Bernice Van Dyke, brother Jackie Huggins, sisters Sarah Munsey, Sandy Huggins, and Darlene Dunaway.

Raymond Scott Brock

Raymond Scott Brock-age 84 of Washburn passed away Friday evening, February 8, 2019 at his home. He was a member of Salem Primitive Baptist Church. Preceded in death by wife, Barbara Brock; parents, Walter and Lois (Atkins) Brock; sister, Ruby Idol; son-in-law, Henry Paul McGinnis.

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