Emmanuel built on Atkins's distinctive finger and thumb picking style, which he learned from the late Merle Travis, the Muhlenberg County, Kentucky-born thumbpicker who played a style popular in that region. Atkins, still a teenager, heard Travis in 1939 when he was performing on radio in Cincinnati. Atkins later added elements of Les Paul and George Barnes to his style. Emmanuel absorbed all that and added much, much more. He projects great diversity, factoring in jazz, country, rock and blues, generally playing an amplified acoustic model. His technique is a blend of the tasteful and the blistering.
These videos chronicle his journey over the past 25 years.
1991: "Determination" Playing electric guitar on an Australian MTV program. His days specializing in country and acoustic picking were a few years off.
1997: "Jingle Bells" with Chet Atkins from a Nashville Network program. Chet explains his relationship with Emmanuel.
April 29, 2008: "Limehouse Blues" with jazz guitar great Frank Vignola's Quintet in the style of Gypsy jazz virtuoso Django Reinhardt.
2011: "Cannonball Rag" (a Merle Travis classic) with Brad Paisley on the Grand Ole Opry
2012: Medley: "Stevie's Blues," Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" live in Germany
2014: "Bernie's Tune" with British jazz virtuoso Martin Taylor.
2016: Encore, Montreal Jazz Festival