Phil Dirt - Reverb Central - PO Box 1609, Felton, CA 95018-1609 USA
Chet Atkins - Guitar Legend - The RCA Yearsdotdotdot
artworkChet Atkins is simply a legend. This two CD set clocks in at over two hours, and includes 50 tracks spanning 30 years from his RCA period. The ratings of the songs within reflect the surf relevance, but there's no denying his importance. Among the gems here is his version of 'Walk Don't Run,' which is the one that inspired the Ventures.
Picks: Canned Heat, The Nashville Jump, Dizzy Strings, Dance Of The Goldenrod, Galloping On The Guitar, Centipede Boogie, Main Street Breakdown, Indian Love Call, Mountain Melody, Jitterbug Waltz, Rainbow, Nobody's Sweetheart, Chinatown, My Chinatown, Fiddle Patch, (When It's) Darkness On The Delta, High Rockin' Swing, Guitars On Parade, Oh By Jingo!, The Bells Of St. Mary's, Country Gentleman, Memphis Blues, Downhill Rag, Ballin' The Jack, Silver Bell, Mister Sandman, New Spanish Two Step, The Poor People Of Paris, Tweedle Dee, The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry), Blue Ocean Echo, Trambone, Dig These Blues, Yesterdays, Walk, Don't Run, Hot Toddy, Slinkey, Frankie and Johnny, Windy and Warm, Early Times, Satan's Doll, So Rare, Yakety Axe, Blue Angel, Steeplechase Lane, Black Mountain Rag, Take Five, Blue Finger, Cascade, Carolina Shout

Track by Track Review


Canned Heat dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Bouncy country blues, rhythm dominated, with a chord progression and some picking, but not a lot of defined melody. By the time you get to the accordion and fiddle breaks, you understand this Chet Atkins barbecue. Recorded in August of 1947.

The Nashville Jump dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Co-written with Lowell Tennis, this simple number speaks of friendly country whine and light hearted sympathy. Charlie Hurta's fiddle work is very sweet. This dates from August '47.

Dizzy Strings dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

November 1947 was the date of this playful cowboy polka, with exceptionally sweet fiddle from Charlie Hurta, like Papa John Creech with Hot Tuna in the early seventies. Cool picking.

Dance Of The Goldenrod dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This careful waltz is metered out with precision, if not excitement. Pretty, but unremarkable. 1949.

Galloping On The Guitar dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

The incomparable Homer and Jethro (Homer Haynes and Jethro Burns) back the master on guitar and mandolin, while Chet Atkins dances across the strings like a firefly in heat. Really cool. Early '49.

Centipede Boogie dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

While it emotes images of a "Centipede Boogie," it doesn't have the charm of the Halibuts' "Centipede." A boogie roll. 1949.

Main Street Breakdown dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

October '49 saw the birth of this pickin' fool's delight, with Homer and Jethro backing up the man.

Indian Love Call dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

In mid 1950, Chet Atkins recorded this pristine rendition of "Indian Love Call" with spiffy piano support from Papa John Gordy. It's a bit crude, but tasty.

Mountain Melody dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Ringing country sweet guitar from a master of the art form. Delicate, precise, and fluid.

Jitterbug Waltz dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Fat's Waller's playful tune finds new life as Chet Atkins plays both guitars and the bass. The year was 1951, and the mood was obviously festive. Very clean.

Rainbow dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This tune has a melody line that Slacktone could bring right into the surf genre. It's fluid, and intricate. Both playful and technical, it prances in the monitors with reverb possibilities from the murk of 1951.

Nobody's Sweetheart dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Another 1951 track, this is a solo guitar effort, gentle and whimsical.

Chinatown, My Chinatown dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Just a short hop and a skip to rockabilly, "Chinatown, My Chinatown" dances with anticipation of the rock revolution to come. Just add drums and power, and a bar fight to this 1952 track to bring into the nineties with a band like the Cadillac Angels or Number 9.

Fiddle Patch dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Chet Atkins and Homer and Jethro back fiddle Dale Potter on this splendid 1952 romp.

(When It's) Darkness On The Delta dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Again, Homer and Jethro back Chet Atkins on this fluid moody swamp number. A slow bluesy afternoon nap kinda number, "(When It's) Darkness On The Delta" oozes down home laid back style. 1953

High Rockin' Swing dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

An OK number from 1952. Note the use of the term "rockin'" in the title. Note also that it isn't a rocker.

Guitars On Parade dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This previously unissued (in the US) track from 1953 moves slowly through precise yet lazy day delivery to set a fanciful afternoon scene.

Oh By Jingo! dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Cat Mother and the Allnight Newsboys figured out their countrified rock from tunes like this. Bouncy and very fun.

The Bells Of St. Mary's dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Yup, that tune, from 1953, and sounding like there's a bit of Les Paul in it. The duet with the steel gives it an almost musical saw feel. Very satisfying.

Country Gentleman dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

So fancy, from a laughing at them perspective. Tasty. 1953.

Memphis Blues dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

W. C. Handy's tune fluidly laid down, with a brushed drums backing. Very smooth.

Downhill Rag dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Playful and stilted, this seems relatively unremarkable to me. 1954.

Ballin' The Jack dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This standard is delivered with precision, but not a lot of emotion. It's quite sterile, while not being empty. Dale Potter's fiddle is very cool. 1954.

Silver Bell dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Recorded in 1954, charted in 1955, and quite satisfying. It's a lightweight track, but not dismissible.

Mister Sandman dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

The Chords made history with this in the charts. Chet Atkins makes it oh-so sweet. Playful and delicate. Oh the possibilities of a low-E double picked surf monster! 1954 session yielded an early '55 charting.

New Spanish Two Step dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This previously unissued track dates from late 1954. The legendary Bob Wills wrote it, and Chet Atkins makes it sparkle. Melodic and playful.

The Poor People Of Paris dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This song has been recorded to death, mostly by MOR mush-mongers. While this is more fluid and credible, it's still a silly tune, reminding me of "My Three Sons." 1956.

Tweedle Dee dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Delicate, arty, plucky, and bouncy. OK, but not a chart topper. Who was it, Laverne Baker that charted with this? 1955.

The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry) dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This playful rendering of Laverne Baker's hit misses the charm, replacing it with white-bread back porch ease. 1955.

Blue Ocean Echo dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Using echo on guitar, and backed by Floyd Cramer and Bob Moore ("Mexico"), Chet Atkins dishes out a very surfable tune, like maybe Pollo Del Mar might make magic with. You must grin while listening to this. 1956.

Trambone dotdotdotdot
Country MOR (Instrumental)

Covered by the Intruders (flip side of "Wild Goose") and the Krew Kats, among others, this playful tune is a Chet Atkins original. It has a happy plucky lilt, and plays lightly on a bouncy theme. Very suave, and just a little MOR. Bob Moore and Floyd Cramer support. 1956.

Dig These Blues dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This standard was issued in 1957. It's bass and drums solo sets it apart from other Chet Atkins tracks. Very suave.

Yesterdays dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Jerome Kern's classic, with Bob Moore and Floyd Cramer. Very slow and deliberate, almost sterile. 1957.

Walk, Don't Run dotdotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

All right! Now, this may not be the first recording of this Johnny Smith tune, but it is the version that Ventures covered in 1960. Chet Atkins is admirable supported by Bob Moore and Floyd Cramer, with Buddy Harmon on drums. Very infectious and fluid. 1957.

Hot Toddy dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

It's 1959, and Chet Atkins is getting softer and more slushy, along with the whole music business. It's a pretty tune, but seems much to pallid for my taste.

Slinkey dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

With the vibrato turned to 8, Chet Atkins with Bob Moore, Floyd Cramer, and Buddy Harmon drop a surprise package of cool guitar work in the mix, like a precursor to the surf movement. An excellent tune for some enterprising band to reverb the hell out of. 1958.

Frankie and Johnny dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This traditional number has been recorded more times than I can count. It's a smooth and wispy arrangement, with restrained but affective piano work by Floyd Cramer. 1960.

Windy and Warm dotdotdotdot
Country MOR (Instrumental)

John D. Loudermilk's fantastic charmer is portrayed here is a plucky and playful setting. The piano and a lack of reverb are all that set it apart from surf. The chorus is sorta strange, but otherwise it's mighty close to the grand Neon Spores cover. This can't be played unless you're happy. The grins just ooze from it's tongue-in-cheek structure. Loudermilk was a great writer. I sure would like to see his better work come out on CD in his own voice and guitar. 1961.

Early Times dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Jerry Reed's ditty smoothed out by the master of smooth, Chet Atkins. 1964.

Satan's Doll dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

The Devil, you say! Another Johnny Smith tune, this time a little less poppie, and a lot more saintly. 1964.

So Rare dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Often covered, especially after the big band and chorus MOR success in the fifties. Smooth, with orchestral sounding piano work. 1964.

Yakety Axe dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Boots Randolph' "Yakety Sax" becomes "Yakety Axe" when it's converted to guitar by Chet Atkins. It's easily as playful, and borders on rockin'. very fun, and really nice tone beginning to show through. Charley McCoy adds some mighty fine harmonica work. 1965.

Blue Angel dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Jerry Reed ("When You're Hot, You're Hot") adds second guitar to this bouncy pluck-fest. 1968.

Steeplechase Lane dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Jerry Reed, Charlie McCoy, Floyd Cramer, Johnny Johnson, and yet it's only clean. Not very interesting. 1970.

Black Mountain Rag dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

A great foggy mountain breakdown kinda thing, infectious and spunky. 1971 and "Deliverance" is everywhere... even here. Quite cool.

Take Five dotdotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

Paul Desmond's great tune he hit with while in the Dave Bruebeck Quartet. This is tight and delicate, less airy than the original or the rock covers, but somehow quite magnetic. Excellent. 1973.

Blue Finger dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This is slow walkin' blues thing from 1973. Easy to listen to, easier to forget.

Cascade dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This 1976 motion oriented track is perfect open road Arizona music. Bouncy, energetic, fun, and hard to sit still to.

Carolina Shout dotdotdot
Country (Instrumental)

This 1978 track is stylish, but more about technique than music.