About Tommy Emmanuel
William Thomas Emmanuel AM is an Australian guitarist who is known for his complex fingerstyle technique, energetic performances and the use of percussive effects on the guitar. Originally a session player in many bands, Emmanuel carved out his own style as a solo artist, releasing award-winning albums and singles. He is often regarded as one of the greatest acoustic guitarists of all time. In the May 2008 and 2010 issues of Guitar Player magazine, he was named "Best Acoustic Guitarist" in its readers' poll. In June 2010 Emmanuel was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia . In 2011, Emmanuel was inducted into the Australian Roll of Renown.
One of four children, Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia, in 1955. He received his first guitar in 1959 at age four and was taught by his mother to accompany her playing lap steel guitar. In 1961, at the age of six, he heard Chet Atkins playing on the radio. He vividly remembers that moment and said it greatly inspired him as a musician.
By the age of six, he was a working professional musician. Recognizing the musical talents of Emmanuel and his older brother, Phil, their father created a family band, sold their home, and took his family on the road. With the family living in two station wagons, much of Emmanuel's childhood was spent touring Australia, playing rhythm guitar, and rarely going to school. After their father died in 1966, Australian Country Music star Buddy Williams approached the family and asked permission to take the Emmanuel brothers on the road with his touring show travelling around Australia. Tommy Emmanuel would go on to record a number of Buddy Williams albums in the early 1970s. Eventually, the New South Wales Department of Education insisted that the Emmanuel children had to go to school regularly.
The Emmanuels eventually settled in Parkes. Tommy Emmanuel eventually moved to Sydney, where he was noticed nationally when he won a string of talent contests in his teen years. By the late 1970s, he was playing drums with his brother Phil in the group Goldrush as well as doing session work on numerous albums and jingles. He gained further prominence in the late 1970s as the lead guitarist in the Southern Star Band, the backing group for vocalist Doug Parkinson. During 1985–1988 and 1995, he joined in 1982 reformed lineup of the leading New Zealand/Australian 1970s rock group Dragon, touring widely with them, including a 1987 tour with Tina Turner; he left the group to embark on a solo career.
In 1994, Australian music veteran John Farnham invited him to play the guitar next to Stuart Fraser from Noiseworks for the Concert for Rwanda. Emmanuel had previously been a member of Farnham's band during the early 1980s and featured on the album Uncovered and rejoined after the 1994 concert.
In July 1999, Chet Atkins commented that Emmanuel was a "fearless" fingerpicking guitar player and awarded Tommy and four others the "Certified Guitar Player" title.
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