There are very few guitar players worthy of C.G.P. (Certified Guitar Player) status. As the founder of that elite club, Chet Atkins should know! And when Chet Atkins calls you “without a doubt, one of the greatest guitar players on the planet”, you know you’re doing something right. Tommy Emmanuel has been doing many things right for over four decades, wowing audiences of musicians and non-musicians alike throughout the world. Like fellow guitar pickers extraordinaire Chet and Mark Knopfler, Emmanuel seems to possess that sixth sense when it comes to framing a melody on the guitar fretboard. His arrangements never sound clunky, forced, or contrived. Instead, they afford the listener a clear channel into the heart of the fingerstyle guitar music he performs.
Born in 1955 to a musical family, Tommy began playing guitar at the tender age of four. He was originally taught by his mother for the purpose of accompanying her on lap steel guitar, but it didn’t take long for his own interest in the instrument to surface. Emmanuel can clearly remember the first time he ever heard Chet Atkins at the age of seven and it had a profound impact on him. He spent countless hours trying to decipher Atkins’ complex fingerstyle guitar approach. Before he was 10 years old, he’d already earned years of experience as a professional musician traveling with his family, performing across Australia. Tommy played mostly rhythm guitar at this time, while his brother Phil (also an accomplished guitarist) played lead. The brothers rarely attended school until forced to do so by the Australian Department of Education.
Tommy’s father died of a heart attack when he was only 11 years old. Consequently, the Emmanuel siblings (including his brother Chris on drums and sister Virginia on slide guitar) earned the household’s sole income for years. Shortly after his father’s premature death, Emmanuel wrote a letter to “Mr. Guitar” (Chet Atkins himself) and was shocked when he received a letter back. Although it would still be years before their first meeting in person, the two grew to become friends and Chet became Tommy’s mentor. Around the age of 14, Emmanuel moved to Sydney to pursue a full-time music career of his own. He quickly found work in several bands and before long found himself in demand as one of the hottest session guitarists in town. He performed on recordings by “Air Supply” and “Men At Work” to name a few. He also lent his talents to countless commercials and TV shows. In 1980, Emmanuel finally made the trip to the US, meeting and playing with Chet for the first time. Since then, Mr. Guitar has done much to help his career for which Tommy is eternally grateful.
Emmanuel’s first solo album, “Up From Down Under” appeared in 1987 and numerous subsequent releases enjoyed great success in his native Australia. In 1996, he recorded “The Day Fingerpickers Took Over The World” with Chet Atkins for which he received his first Grammy Award nomination. Since then his popularity has continued to grow worldwide, no doubt spurred on by his performance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He released his first solo acoustic guitar album “Only” in 2001, beginning a trend that many fans have long been waiting for.
With increased exposure in the media all the time, Emmanuel’s fan base continues to expand like never before. Performing close to 300 concerts a year, Tommy is right where he wants to be – sharing his love for music and the guitar with the rest of us! Fortunately for aspiring guitarists, Tommy has gone on to publish numerous guitar tab books and DVD courses that teach his solo fingerstyle guitar arrangements and the techniques that he uses to play them.
Peabody Conservatory trained guitarist Steven Herron helps people succeed at becoming better guitar players. His company ChordMelody.com features an enormous, unique selection of country guitar tab as well as guitar books and instructional DVDs by Tommy Emmanuel himself.
Tommy Emmanuel – Guitar Boogie