Nashville guitar great Chet Atkins dies at 77

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The Independent Culture

Chet Atkins, the rock'n'roll guitarist who changed the sound of country music, has died at the age of 77 at his Nashville home after suffering from cancer.

His distinctive talents as a session musician helped to launch the careers of Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton and Roy Orbison among others. Atkins recorded more than 100 albums of guitar instrumentals and sold more than 75 million records.

"I realised that what I like, the public would like too, 'cause I'm kind of square," he modestly said of his appeal. George Harrison, Mark Knopfler and George Benson have all cited Atkins' influence on them.

Famous for his unusual finger-picking style, Atkins sometimes joked that early in his career his playing sounded like "two guitarists playing badly". But he went on to develop what came to be known as the Nashville Sound, which updated country music by "taking out the twang" and making it more upmarket. The lavish sound was criticised by purists but Atkins said he was doing it simply to keep his job.

"And the way that you do that is you make a hit record once in a while. And the way that you do that is you give the audience something different," he said.