Chet Atkins “Dark Eyes” Gretsch Guitar May Return To Nashville Permanently

Pictured (L-R): Tommy Emmanuel, Tom Doyle

Pictured (L-R): Tommy Emmanuel, Tom Doyle

The owner of the 1956 Chet Atkins Gretsch 6120 prototype guitar, also known as “Dark Eyes,” is making the instrument available to benefactors, with the goal of preserving it inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The guitar is currently owned by Tom Doyle, noted for being Les Paul’s personal guitar builder, restorer, technician, soundman and co-inventor for nearly half a century.

In July, the guitar was showcased during performances at the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society event. Tommy Emmanuel, who was named as a “certified guitar player” (or c.g.p.) by Atkins himself, played the instrument during the Nashville events, marking its first performance on a stage in more than 55 years.

Tommy Emmanuel plays "Dark Eyes" on the Grand Ole Opry. Photo: Courtesy Katelyn Prieboy

Tommy Emmanuel plays “Dark Eyes” on the Grand Ole Opry. Photo: Courtesy Katelyn Prieboy

The guitar takes its name from a Russian folk song, “Dark Eyes,” which Atkins played on the instrument on the Opry in the mid to late 1950s. To collectors and historians, the famous guitar embodies the early years of Atkins’ extensive business partnership with Gretsch Guitars.

Doyle and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are seeking benefactors to help the museum attain the piece. The instrument has received attention from Guitar Player and Guitar Aficionado magazines. It was formerly displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History as part of the Chinery Collection.

“I cannot think of a better place for this guitar than Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame,” says Doyle. “It is where she belongs and I know that it’s what our friend Chet would have wanted.”

 

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Craig Shelburne is the General Manager at MusicRow.

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