Without Chet Atkins, country music may never have crossed over into the pop charts in the '50s and '60s. Although he is an exceptionally talented guitarist with hundreds of solo records to his credit, Atkins' largest influence came as a session musician and a record producer. During the '50s and '60s, he helped create the Nashville sound, a style of country music that owed nearly as much to pop as it did to honky tonk.
Atkins became RCA's house guitarist for all Nashville sessions in 1949. While he worked for RCA, he played on many hit records, fashioning the lush Nashville sound. In 1953, he was made a consultant to RCA's Nashville division; that same year, he started to release solo instrumental albums. His first hit arrived in 1955, when "Mr. Sandman" charted, followed by "Silver Bell," a duet with Hank Snow. By the late '50s, Atkins's reputation was secure - not only did his records sell, but he designed guitars for Gibson and Gretsch. Atkins became the manager of RCA's Nashville division in 1957, as his performing career gained momentum; "Yakety Axe," his first Top 5 hit, arrived in 1965. During the '60s, he produced hits for the majority of RCA's Nashville acts, including Elvis Presley and Eddy Arnold, and discovered a wealth of talent, such as Don Gibson, Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride and Bobby Bare. Atkins His solo popularity faded in the early '70s and he turned to the Nashville String Band, a trio he formed with Homer and Jethro; they released five albums between 1970 and 1972. Atkins continued to record for RCA throughout the '70s. He left the label in 1982, signing with Columbia, where he released Work It Out With Chet Atkins, in 1983. During his time at Columbia, Atkins departed from his traditional country roots, concentrating on jazz instead. He returned to country on occasion, notably on duet albums with Mark Knopfler and Jerry Reed. During the '90s, he was relatively quiet, recording infrequently.