Emmanuel, Allan, Bomshel and Larkin at Britt

Acoustic guitarist Tommy Emmanuel — a two-time Grammy nominee — was a household name in his homeland of Australia long before he gained fame in the U.S. He was playing in clubs in Sydney as early as the '70s, working as a session player and sideman, then recording with bands such as Air Supply and Men at Work.

In 1985, Emmanuel joined one of Australia's biggest rock bands, Dragon, and recorded the platinum-selling album "Dreams of Ordinary Men." Two years later, Dragon toured with rock icon Tina Turner on her worldwide Break Every Rule concert tour.

It is for his successful solo career, however, that Emmanuel is best known.

The fingerpicking-style guitarist will perform Friday, Sept. 3, at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville.

Emmanuel was born into a musical family. He and his older brother, Phil, were considered prodigies by their friends and family. By age 6, Emmanuel was playing in the family's band, variously named The Emmanuel Quartet, The Midget Surgaries and The Trailblazers. Emmanuel played rhythm, while his brother played lead, along with their brother, Chris, on drums and sister, Virginia, on slide guitar.

It was the early '60s when Emmanuel heard Nashville guitarist Chet Atkins' music. Afterwards, Emmanuel set out to learn Atkins' fingerpicking style and bought each of the American guitar player's albums. Atkins would be Emmanuel's mentor and primary influence, but it would be another 15 years before the two would meet.

After his father died, Emmanuel wrote to Atkins in Nashville. Atkins answered his letter with words of encouragement and an open invitation to visit him in the U.S. In 1980, Emmanuel made the trip to the U.S. to play with Atkins in Nashville. The Tennessean master guitarist and producer took the 20-something Australian ace under his wing and introduced him to other guitar legends.

Atkins' influences are evident through Emmanuel's technical precision, his virtuosic improvisations and his broad repertoire which includes country, bluegrass, pop, jazz, blues, gospel and even classical and flamenco styles.

In 1997, Emmanuel and Atkins recorded as a duo and released "The Day Finger Pickers Took Over the World." In 1999, Atkins presented Emmanuel with a Certified Guitar Player award at the 15th Annual Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention. The award gains its fame from being bestowed by Atkins himself and states "In Recognition of His Contributions to the Art of Fingerpicking." Emmanuel performs each July at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society in Nashville.

Folksinger and songwriter Patty Larkin will open Emmanuel's show at the Britt Pavilion. Tickets cost $22 for lawn seating. Reserved seating and premium reserved lawn seating are sold out for this show. Visit www.brittfest.org or call the box office at 541-773-6077.

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