It was Sunday, July 20, 1969. Probably the most dramatic moment in history. Neil Armstrong descended the steps of the Eagle and became the first human to set foot on the moon.
At least, that's what I was told. I didn't see it - I was doing something more important. I was with about 100 hardcore guitarists at the Inglewood Forum watching Chet Atkins. At some point, I seem to remember Archie Campbell walking out and telling us that we landed on the moon. We didn't really care because we were watching Chet. At one point, after Chet played Walk Don't Run, someone in the crowd yelled, "Play Bulldog!" We're talking REAL hardcore.
Just three or four years later, I was able to meet him. My longtime friend Bryan and I went to see him at the Sahara in Lake Tahoe. After the show, Bryan insisted that we try to talk to Chet. He picked up a white courtesy phone and asked for "dressing rooms" in an authoritarian voice. He then asked to speak to Chet who, amazingly, answered the phone. Chet invited us to come down to his dressing room and talk for awhile. While smoking a large cigar, he told us stories about guitars, Elvis and how he invented the fuzztone but decided it had no commercial use. It was an amazing experience for a couple of young guitarists. Chet let us know our time together was coming to a close when he looked down and said, "Well boys, my cigar is just about done."
Bryan and I were able to talk to Chet one other time after a performance many years later and were surprised that he remembered us. Over the years I've had the pleasure of watching him play many times and I always had the same reaction: afterward I wanted to burn all of my guitars. He made it look so damn easy.
Chet was a great man and a world-class guitarist. A few hours after his death, I lit up an Ashton and smoked it in his honor. Sadly, I looked down and said, "Well Chet, my cigar is just about done."
Chet in concert at the Paramount Theater in Oakland