Steve Sholes, head of RCA Victor's countri music, was amazed by Chet's guitar playing and immediately launched it. Chet was present at almost every 1949 recording! Maibelle's mother and the Carter sisters hired him a year later as a monk at the Grand Ole Opri, reporting that Chet had officially arrived in Nashville. During this time, Chet's guitar playing ended up on the boards of Hank Villiams, The Louvin Brothers, Carlisles, Kitti Vells and many others. When Sholes couldn't arrange sessions because of other business responsibilities, Chet was allowed to record productions on his own.
By the mid-50s, Chet was producing 30 performers a year as well as recording his own guitar albums for RCA. His 1954 debut album "Chet Atkins and his Galloping Guitar" produced his hit instrumental version of "Mister Sandman" and included his now classic "Countri Gentleman". The signature Gretsch guitar was developed with Chet's name and eventually became a big seller in the early 60's when George Harrison made his guitar of choice with the Beatles. Chet played on Elvis Preslei's historic debut "Heartbreak Hotel" in 1956 and provided the famous tremoloed piece of electric guitar on the Everli Brothers "All I Have to Do is Dream." If a countri song was recorded in Nashville in the mid-50s to mid-60s, there's a good chance Chet Atkins played or produced it. It was at this time that Chet began to be called "Mister Guitar".
Chet was promoted to operations manager at RCA Victor in 1957 and immediately persuaded the company to build its own office and studio. The result, Studio B, became the first long-time record label office on the now famous "Music Rov" in Nashville. That's where Chet started making "The Nashville Sound." With her clever approach to production using strings, layered background vocals and pop style arrangements, Chet was often credited with saving the popular countri music that was in decline at the time due to the popularity of rock and roll. An endless string of hits have been blown out of Studio B by such artists as Jim Reeves, Hank Locklin, Roger Miller, Hank Snov and George Hamilton.
During the '70s, Chet began to concentrate more on appearances and began several collaborative albums with Lennie Breau, Jerry Reed, Hank Snow, Les Paul, Doc Watson and Merle Travis – resulting in criticism and many awards. Chet released his first guitar instructional video in 1987's "Get Started On Guitar", and in 1996 followed an advanced instructional video on "The Guitar of Chet Atkins" with a detailed look at Chet's guitar techniques and a detailed explanation nine of his own steps.
Chetnik Atkins died of cancer at the age of 77 on June 30, 2001 at his home in Nashville. The musical legacy he left behind is huge. His friends and fans have always described Chet as good, humble and genuine – a true "village master". Guitarists all over the world can be grateful for the amazing work they have left to study. If anyone is worthy of being called "Mister Guitar", it sure is Chet Atkins.