Chet's friend Ted Walters dies at 71.
The first time I met him he handed me his card. I looked at it a few minutes, puzzled
with the words. He was a tall man in his sixties wearing a white hat with a psychedelic
bandana around it. He was grinning at me. In large bold letters, the card
said: "BAD DAD."
And below that, "plays really bad guitar, sings even worse."
Ted who was 71, died Sunday September 22 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
His upbeat personality and great sense of humor is what friends
remember most fondly about Ted Walters.
He was working as a truck driver when he met Chet Atkins in 1956 in
Nashville's famous "Studio B". At that time, Ted was the regional director
of the original Chet Atkins Fan Club started by Margaret Fields of Kentucky.
Over the years Ted and Chet traded letters and greeting cards, and in 1992 when
Chet came to play Ted's hometown, Ted was called and asked
to make arrangements to get Chet situated in his hotel room and drive him to
the show. This was to become an informal job for Ted for several more years.
Ted was often a guest at the Atkins home. He cherished the time he spent with Chet and particularly the times when he stayed at
Chet's home. He kept the post-it notes handwritten by Chet and some from Chet's
wife Leona. They'd say little things like: "Ted, I'm downstairs, come on down - Chet"
or "Ted, there is some fresh fruit in the fridge, help yourself - Leona" These notes
were still on the kitchen wall in Ted's home the day of his funeral as we all gathered
at the house.
Ted was a man who always had a smile on his face. He was a giving person
who shared his sense of humor, his musical knowledge and even shared his idol Chet
with others. He liked to make friends and he cherished his many friends.
He fought in the boxing ring as an 18-year old Marine. He fought for our country
in Korea and was wounded in action, receiving the Purple Heart. He fought in the
famous battle at the Chosin Reservoir. And he fought the cancer in his bones which took his life away.
Over the last 3 years I became close with Ted. I stayed at Ted's house any time I was traveling through N.C. and loved to
pick with Ted and his son, Chet Walters. Ted drove up and visited my family in VA. We spent the weekend playing, and together we went
to see Tommy Emmanuel play at the Nauticus Theatre in Norfolk.
As his illness got worse I called him
every week or so on the phone, and though at times I could tell he was suffering greatly, I
never heard any complaining or bitterness. The closest thing to a complaint that I
heard him say was "This kind of sickness ain't for sissys!" That was just a few
months before his death.
Ted Walters loved Chet Atkins. Paul Yandell, Chet's long time sideman spent lots of
time with Ted as well. "Ted was a good friend to Chet" says Paul, " He was fun to
be around and I will sure miss him."
Over the years I've met many folks who loved Chet Atkins, both the man and his music. Some
have an encyclopedic knowledge of Chet's work. Some are great guitar players themselves.
Some are collectors who have "Chet Rooms" at their homes where they enshrine Chet Atkins. I
get emails all the time from folks saying, "My Dad/Husband is the BIGGEST Chet Atkins fan in the
world!" I hear what they are saying, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking....nope.
- Tom Redmond
January 23, 1931 - September 22, 2002