Guitarist Tommy Emmanuel: From Australia To The Byham

Friday, 24 February 2017 06:28 AM Written by 



Tommy Emmanuel, who appears at the Byham Theatre Sunday at 7:30 is part of a long tradition of fingerstyle guitarists. The Australian-born musician is renowned for a level of virtuosity and versatility not unlike that of his first guitar hero, Chet Atkins (1924-2001). The guitarist-producer, known primarily as a country player, was known for his diverse repertoire, and later gave himself the tongue-in-cheek title "C. G. P." or "Certified Guitar Player." Emmanuel is one of the elite quintet of friends on whom Chet bestowed that title. The others are singer-guitarist Steve Wariner, John Knowles, the late country star Jerry Reed and Paul Yandell, Chet's guitar accompanist on his stage shows.

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


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