What else was going on when Chet was at the height of his career? We know it was a simpler time without Instagram and Facebook, so who was making the cover of Star Studded Magazine back then?
Atkins’ career spanned five decades. After graduating from High School in 1942, he hit the musical road and never looked back. At the time, he was in the shadows, but soon his talents were recognized and the 1950s, 60s and until his death in 2001 he was a major player. He lived through the bright lights and the smoky rooms with other entertainers like Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney and Elvis Presley. It was a time to remember like a Greensboro party bus rental service all over again, as these talented artists showed up for their gigs.
As Elizabeth Taylor’s 3rd limo pulled up to their hotel in Acapulco, Mexico it wasn’t a Mariachi band or any of those aforementioned crooners welcoming the happy couple. It was our Chet’s music piped through the lobby with his rendition of I’ll See You In My Dreams.Other names that graced the first big decade of his career are people who inspired today’s Pop, Country, Folk, Jazz and mainstream musicians. Contemporary generations incorporate the licks from the past while bringing them into the present with their modern take on some old favorites. Here are just a few of those who live on – like Chet, through their influential talent.
Jerry Lee Lewis
Tough, passionate and God-fearing, say good-bye to the big band sound and usher in the raucous piano playing kid from the South. Memorable tracks to his credit are Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls of Fire.
Bill Haley and His Comets
Does Rock Around the Clock immediately ring a bell? Even the title makes music bounce around my brain to the old familiar rock chart hit. Although in a different genre than Chet Atkins they shared mutual admiration for bringing their listening audiences to their feet.
The heartthrob of many teenage girls at the time meant that when Paul Anka sang it was accompanied with girls’ swoons. Best known for his 1957 hit Diana, Anka was a composer to the stars and remained the hidden talent to a number of familiar jingles and theme songs. The Tonight Show played his music as their opening number for decades.
The Everly Brothers
Close harmony and steel guitars best describe these two handsome kids. Influenced by Chet Atkins, Phil and Don both aspired to live up to their family friend and idol’s name. Performing Country Rock and Roll they hit the charts throughout the late 50s with hits like Bye Bye Love.
It’s well known that Chet never discriminated based on a person’s skin color. He knew what the people wanted and in the early 1950s, Chuck Berry entered the scene like a shot. He never signed with RCA – Chet’s label, but there was mutual admiration. Respected for the way he could get a crowd riled up and booging, the music scene was never the same after letting Mr. Berry hit the stage. His electric Maybellene and Roll Over Beethoven were two songs that were known to have mega influence on the “boys from Liverpool” (Beatles).
The list of greats that came out of the 1950s, when Chet was in the middle of his heyday is longer than life. Some of the best performers to date hail from a less complicated era when music was mostly about bringing the people together to dance, laugh and make more music.
Leave a comment below and tell us who you most admired from the 1950’s music scene.