When I First Heard Chet
Palmer Moore - Columbus, Ohio - Organizer of Ohio Fingerstyle Guitar Club
I was in the Navy at the time on a destroyer (USS
Conway - DDE 507) out of Norfolk. Out of boredom I had taught myself to play the guitar from talking to a couple of hillbillies on board
(yea, they taught me to play Wildwood Flower, Under the Double Eagle, etc. - we had a great time - they didn’t use picks - they used match book covers) and the
rock bands in downtown Norfolk during the early ‘60s. I had just bought me a bright red triple pickup Harmony guitar and amp fer $200 and was holding regular
rock and roll jam sessions on the ship in my work space - trying to see how loud we could play Honky Tonk
and Walk Don't Run.
In those days the Navy tied up 3 or 4 destroyers side by side to the dock - and one day when we was a jammin’ this young lad from an adjacent ship walked in the
shop and asked if he could play with us. There was plenty of extra geetars laying around, so we handed him one - and we took off playing another loud and fast
rock tune. (We were horrible…) It was soon obvious (from his phunny accent) that he was from south of the Mason Dixon line - and he didn’t seem to be able to
"keep up" with our "phenomenal" playing. But, in between tunes when we were trying to think of which of our other "two" tunes we could play - this young lad would
start quietly whacking away on the bass strings with his thumb (that had quite a callus on it) - and then he started playing
this Siboney thing on the upper strings (in Am.)
I didn’t say anything the first or second time he did it - ‘cause I was still thinking he was probably just a little "slow." But, the third time I couldn’t help but ask him in
a whisper, "What is that you are doing there???" He whispered back and asked me if I had ever heard of Chet Atkins. I confessed that I hadn’t. I reached over and
turned up his volume a little bit more and asked him to play the rest of it. -----
It didn't take long before his playing lit me up like a Christmas tree. Sparks come a poppin’ out of my
pores. You think I holler a lot at CAAS - you shoulda heard me yellin’ at everybody else to get out of the shop. I knew I just had to learn how to make my thumb
and fingers do those different things. -- Took me six months of solid practice to do it.
I had caught the "sickness."
I wished I would have remembered his name. I only had three days for him to show me a couple more (Windy and Warm, of course) because his ship pulled out,
and I never saw him again. But, what an impact that young man left on my musical life - I never played another note of rock and roll till I was in college four years
later and needed some extra money. -
And, now I am almost 60 years old - and I still can’t play Windy and Warm - right….
(But, I can play it almost as good as Jim Childers)