June 18, 2009 — Steve Wariner will be the featured guest on the June 18 edition of the Grand Ole Opry when the venerable show pays tribute to the late Chet Atkins.
Steve gets a full half-hour to close the Opry Classics program, which comes two days before what would have been Chet's 85th birthday. It also comes as Steve readies the Tuesday release of a new album, My Tribute To Chet Atkins. Steve played in Chet's band and was signed to RCA by the Country Music Hall of Famer, who also produced Steve's first recordings for the label.
The tribute album features a number of songs that Chet recorded, but also several that Steve wrote in his honor. Chet was an influential guitarist, making an impact not only on country musicians, but also on the likes of Mark Knopfler, George Harrison and John Fogerty. He recorded with everyone from country legend Jerry Reed to jazz great Earl Klugh, and he also ran RCA, signing and/or producing acts such as Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold and Don Gibson.
"You can look and see where the thread goes: pop music, jazz, he played with [New Orleans musician] Allen Toussai nt, he played with Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops," Steve recounts. "I mean it's everywhere. It's all over the map, and as a musician, it doesn't get any better than that. Chet loved all kinds of music — Dixieland to bluegrass, but at the same time, never forgetting his roots, where he came from, and that's what's beautiful about him."
Larry Gatlin hosts the Thursday Opry, which also features Suzy Bogguss, who recorded an album with Chet in the 1990s; and George Hamilton IV, whose biggest hits — including "Abilene" and "Break My Mind" — were produced by Chet.
Chet's image is also featured on an Epiphone guitar Steve decorated for the Guitars Of The Stars Auction being held online at www.opryauction.com. Proceeds from the bidding — open until June 30, the anniversary of Chet's 2001 death — are slated for the Opry Trust Fund. The highest bid for Steve's guitar as of Wednesday was $1,400.