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Paul Yandell

Written by John Schroeter, Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine
(reprinted with permission)

Note: this piece was originally published in 1994

If Chet Atkins is known as "Mister Guitar" then Paul Yandell has certainly earned the name, "Mr. Second Guitar". Yandell's association with Atkins spans more than two decades as sideman and co-composer. For nearly five years, he held the same post with Jerry Reed. Though he'd never assume it, Yandell has been a critical link in the careers of both of these legendary figures. "When you work with creative people like Chet and Jerry," says Yandell. "you play their ideas. Those guys are the Thomas Edison's of the guitar. They create and the rest of us play catch-up!"

Yandell has his family's tobacco farm to thank for the place he's earned in the history of the Nashville guitar sound. 'Working on that tobacco farm was the reason I practiced so hard. It was back-breaking work. When I found out I could be a musician I practiced night and day just to stay out of the tobacco patch. Working in a tobacco patch will make you practice your butt off. So I owe everything to tobacco. My whole career. People knock tobacco, but I love it because it got me to Nashville."

Reflecting on those early days. Yandell remembers his first guitar mentor Wanda Gunn, a lady in her fifties at the time, who happened to play fingerstyle. "She'd take a hymnal and mark the chord changes over songs like "In the Garden" and "Are you Washed in the Blood". That's how I learned to play. For quite some time, I never saw anybody play with a straight pick. After I had been playing for three or four years, there was a guy up the road. Edwin Tynes, who had just come back from the army. He played Shanty Town thumbstyle. Boy it tore me up. I never was the same again. I knew that moment what I wanted to do. So I went and got a thumbpick, and not too long after that, I heard Chet on the radio, By then, I was completely smitten with the style. I'm glad I stuck with it. If I had been a straight-pick man, I'd still be in Kentucky farming, raising tobacco."


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