Guitar legend Chet Atkins once reportedly said that after he was gone, people could hear his guitars speaking for him. As it turns out, the University of Louisiana at Monroe's Richard Hood is lending those guitars a hand. At the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville on July 12, Hood presented an insightful tribute to Atkins' career, life story, and incredible effect on the music scene.
Hood, the executive assistant to the president, gave the same PowerPoint presentation to the Chet Atkins Guitar Convention, also in Nashville, for the eighth consecutive year at the Sheraton Music City Hotel.
That is actually how the honor of presenting at the Country Music Hall of Fame originated, according to Hood. "I began attending the convention in 1991. I noticed that all of the workshops were on guitar playing, yet everyone was there because they loved Chet's music, and so I began thinking about developing a presentation on his life and his music."
Hood developed 70 slides that covered Atkins' life from childhood until a few years before his death in 2001, encompassing such periods as the live radio days, his playing with the Carter Family on the Grand Ole Opry, world tours with Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph, and his time as a very influential record producer. Thanks to intensive personal research, including visits to family members, Hood has been able to add a human touch to the PowerPoint offering by including family photos and anecdotes. "That has definitely been a privilege."
The Country Music Hall of Fame found out about this popular choice at the convention and issued their invitation, seeking to coincide the presentations for ease of travel.
How it began:
Hood began playing guitar in 1963. He learned with the assistance of musically talented family members, never actually taking formal lessons.
"I saw Chet Atkins on the Ed Sullivan Show one night, and I was amazed at how much music could come from one person playing the guitar," Hood shared. "He had such a beautiful sound and tone."
Hood also expressed an admiration for Atkins' modesty and sincerity, evident even before he personally met him. "He was always so well respected for the way he conducted himself - he didn't wave at you from a limousine. There was humility and a sense that he always remembered where he came from, and I respected that."
As a further salute, Hood often performs Atkins' finger-style genre for civic groups and churches. "I like to do what I can to help keep Chet's style of guitar alive. People think of him as a country music guitarist, but it's not that simple. His playing included classical, Big Band, and jazz influences, and he actually was fired from more than one radio station for not being country enough. Such a broad musical repertoire is why he achieved fame as 'Mister Guitarist.'"