Wariner channels Chet Atkins for 11th Grammy nod

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[January 28, 2010]  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Few people knew Chet Atkins like Steve Wariner.

The country music mainstay and the legendary producer were friends and collaborators for more than 25 years before Atkins died in 2001.

So when Wariner calls his Grammy-nominated album "Steve Wariner, c.g.p., My Tribute to Chet Atkins" a labor of love, he's not exaggerating.

"ThInsuranceis album from the get-go was really more about art," Wariner said. "I know it's cliche to say so, but my statement has always been, 'Hey, if it sells 50,000 or 50, it's something that has to get done.' I have to make this record."

Wariner, then a teenage prodigy, was one of just four guitarists Atkins gave the title CGP -- certified guitar player. Atkins was right, of course. Wariner met Atkins after earning a spot in Dottie West's band as a teen and Atkins produced his first albums before inviting him to play bass in Atkins' band.

Wariner, 55, went on to sell millions of albums and was recently honored by Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) for 11 songs that have been performed more than 1 million times on TV and radio. Those hits include both his own music and cuts that Clint Black ("Nothin' But the Taillights"), Keith Urban ("Where the Blacktop Ends") and Garth Brooks ("Longneck Bottle") piloted to success.


"If you can imagine he is a guy who can not only write it but, 'Oh, here you go, I can also play it,' and, 'Oh, here you go, I can produce it and mix it,'" Brooks said. " ... Steve really, really knows what the song needs as a writer, a singer, a producer. He makes it easy."

Not unlike Atkins was known to do.

In a career that spanned nearly six decades, Atkins did a little bit of everything -- from playing with The Carter Family to finding and producing many of the great country artists that followed.

Wariner's CD charts Atkins' life in music with a mix of the producer's tunes and his own originals, which touch on Atkins' style through the years.

Atkins is considered one of the chief architects of the "Nashville sound," which helped push country music into the popular consciousness. But he wasn't defined by the genre, dabbling in swing, jazz, rockabilly and pop music among others.

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"I certainly have always had a love for his music and what he's done for the music industry and in the music industry," Wariner said. "But also just as a friend. Everybody loves Chet. Everybody who knows him loves him. I just wanted to some kind of way, in my way, say thanks and pay back and pay homage to him."

The nomination of "Producer's Medley" as best country instrumental is Wariner's 11th Grammy nod. He's already won three for collaborations with other artists.

"Producer's Medley" is comprised of some of Atkins' hits as a producer. There are pieces of songs from Perry Como, Jim Reeves, The Browns, Don Gibson, Al Hirt, The Everly Brothers, Skeeter Davis and Jerry Reed.

Leona, Atkins' wife of 56 years, heard the album before she died earlier this year and approved of Wariner's work. It has received critical acclaim and approval from those who knew Atkins and those who admired his contributions.

Black thinks Wariner was the perfect vessel for Atkins' work.


"Steve Wariner is the new CGP," Black said. "Besides his talent and skill on guitar, he's one of the people in the world you love to be around. No downside to having Steve in your life, other than the nagging urge to either quit guitar completely or start practicing 16 hours a day in the hopes of being half as good. The Chet CD just puts the exclamation point on it all."


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[Associated Press; By CHRIS TALBOTT]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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