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CHET ATKINS DIES AT 77

Chet Atkins, musician, record producer and record company executive, died on Saturday, June 30 due to complications from cancer. Survivors include his wife of more than 50 years, Leona Johnson Atkins, and daughter, Merle Atkins.

In the 1940s, Atkins developed a finger-picking style of guitar playing that was rare in country music at the time. "I think Merle Travis and I were the first non-classical guitarists to do the finger style guitar," Atkins said in an interview. "You play two-part harmony with your fingers," he explains.

Atkins sold more than 75 million albums, recorded over 75 albums of guitar instrumentals and played on hundreds of hit records including Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", Hank Williams Sr.'s "Your Cheatin' Heart" and The Everly Brothers "Wake Up Little Susie."

In 1957, he became an executive for RCA records and played a part in the careers of Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and many others.

A high school dropout, Atkins focused his education on the guitar, and gave himself an hororary degree -- Chet Atkins C.G.P. "I wanted to be a PH.D. or have some degree," he says, "So I gave myself one -- C.G.P. -- Certified Guitar Player."

In an interview with The Nashville Network, Atkins describes his career: "I'm not the greatest talent, but I have originality. I'm a famous guitar player, I'll admit to that. I'm good, there are many better players than me, I just got there first."

The funeral is Tuesday, July 3, at 11 a.m. at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium.

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