William Thomas "Tommy" Emmanuel AM (born 31 May 1955) is an Australian guitarist and occasional singer, best known for his complex fingerstyle technique, energetic performances and the use of percussive effects on the guitar. In the May 2008 and 2010 issues of Guitar Player Magazine, he was named as "Best Acoustic Guitarist" in their readers' poll. In June 2010 Emmanuel was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Emmanuel was born in Australia in 1955. He received his first guitar in 1959 at age four, being taught by his mother to accompany her playing lap steel guitar. At the age of 7 he heard Chet Atkins on the radio. He vividly remembers this moment and says it greatly inspired him.
By the age of 6, in 1961, he was a working professional musician. Recognizing the musical talents of Tommy and his brother Phil, their father created a family band, sold the family 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 with his family, playing rhythm guitar, and rarely going to school. The family found it difficult living on the road; they were poor but never hungry, never settling in one place. His father would often drive ahead, organize interviews, advertising and finding the local music shop where they'd have an impromptu concert the next day. Eventually the New South Wales Department of Education insisted that the Emmanuel children needed to go to school regularly.
After his father died in 1966, the family settled in Parkes. Tommy eventually moved to Sydney where he came to be 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 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 the early 1980s, he joined the reformed lineup of leading 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.
Emmanuel has said that even at a young age he was fascinated by Atkins’ musical style – sometimes referred to as Travis picking – of playing bass with the thumb and melody parts with the first two or three fingers at the same time. This technique became the basis of Tommy's guitar style.
While Emmanuel has never had formal music training, his playing ability has won him fans from all over the world. He is known to play percussion parts on the body of his guitar. As a solo performer he never plays to a set list and uses a minimum of effects. He usually completes recordings in one take.
Throughout his career he has played with many notable artists including Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Sir George Martin, Air Supply, John Denver, Les Paul, Edgar Cruz and Doc Watson. Wide ThumbClearartFanart Banner User Comments