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Country Music Hall Of Fame® And Museum And Nashville Ballet Premiere Video Collaboration Honoring Chet Atkins’ 100th Birthday With An Original Ballet Performance Set To “ Jitterbug Waltz ”

June 20, 2024

NASHVILLE, Tenn.June 20, 2024 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum and Nashville Ballet have debuted a video performance to honor and celebrate the 100th anniversary of late Country Music Hall of Fame member Chet Atkins’ birth. The two nonprofit organizations created and released an original ballet performance, set to Atkins’ recording of the “Jitterbug Waltz,” on YouTube today.

The three-minute performance video features a collaboratively curated original work performed by Nashville Ballet dancers, Cassandra Thoms and Shaiya Donohue, set to Atkins’ 1959 guitar presentation of the song from the album Chet Atkins in Hollywood.

Museum trustee and Atkins mentee David Conrad envisioned the video performance, which was choreographed and co-directed by Nashville Ballet Artistic Director and CEO Nick Mullikin and filmed in the museum’s Hall of Fame Rotunda, home to Country Music Hall of Fame members’ bronze plaques and Thomas Hart Benton’s “The Sources of Country Music.” Benton’s iconic mural represents the musical and cultural traditions that shaped country music and America, and the dancers’ costumes reference the dancers represented in Benton’s painting. The video also features a 1954 Standel 25L15 amplifier and a Gretsch Streamliner Special 6120 guitar model, which Atkins helped design — both which belonged to Atkins.

“Chet Atkins and his fellow members of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s indelible impact on American culture continues to inspire new generations of creators,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “In celebration of the centennial anniversary of Chet’s birth, we are honored to partner with the Nashville Ballet to showcase Chet’s enduring music and deserved recognition among the greatest guitarists of all time, while also uplifting the creativity and collaboration within Nashville’s nonprofit arts community.”

“It’s a true honor to be able to create a special piece of work for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate Chet Atkins,” said Nashville Ballet Artistic Director and CEO Nick Mullikin. “The opportunity to bring our two organizations together for this one-of-a-kind performance event not only exemplifies our commitment to excellence in the arts community, but honors the heritage of Music City as well.”

The video is underwritten by David and Karen Conrad, with additional support from Metro Arts and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

About Chet Atkins

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973, Chet Atkins learned guitar and fiddle as a child. Fascinated by Merle Travis’ thumb-and-finger picking style, Atkins created his own thumb-and-two-finger variation. After high school, he worked as a musician for multiple radio shows, then signed to RCA Victor as a singer and guitarist in 1947. Beginning in 1950, Atkins was a fixture on the Grand Ole Opry, both as lead guitarist for Maybelle and the Carter Sisters and as a solo act.

Atkins became one of Nashville’s early “A-Team” of session musicians and recorded with everyone from Hank Williams to the Everly Brothers. His first chart hit, a cover of the pop hit “Mister Sandman,” came in 1955, followed by a hit guitar duet with Hank Snow, “Silver Bell.”

In 1955, Steve Sholes put Atkins in charge of RCA’s Nashville studios. Atkins eventually worked his way up to the role of RCA vice president, responsible for Nashville operations. Intent on increasing sales by making country records appeal to pop and country audiences, Atkins — along with Owen Bradley at Decca, Don Law at Columbia and Ken Nelson at Capitol — began to produce singers backed by neutral rhythm sections and replace steel guitars and fiddles with vocal choruses, a style immortalized as the Nashville Sound. Among the many acts he produced successfully were Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Bobby Bare and Floyd Cramer. Atkins produced a constant stream of solo RCA albums during these years as well.

From 1967 to 1988, Atkins won the Country Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the Year honor eleven times. In 1993, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and in 1997, he won his fifteenth Grammy, for his 1996 recording of “Jam Man.” More information on Atkins life and career can be found here.

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