Monday, January 24, 2011

Chet Atkins & Leo Kottke: Sleep Walk

Late start tonight on this blog post – I was very busy last evening and fell asleep before doing the post. Today’s Monday cover is one I discovered a couple of months ago of guitar greats Chet Atkins and Leo Kottke doing the classic Santo and Johnny hit from 1959: “Sleep Walk.” This recording comes from 1988.

The interesting guitar that Chet is playing is a Brazilian made Del Vecchio Dinâmico nylon string resonator guitar. The Del Vecchios have a beautiful tone; however, from what I have read is that the more recent models typically have intonation and action problems. If one is in decent enough shape, a good guitar tech can get one to play well. Del Vecchio also made steel string resonator models.

Unfortunately, as Chet Atkins friend Earl Klugh discovered, It is sometimes easier to have a good luthier make a Del Vecchio copy. Speaking of copies, Conrad Guitars made a Del Vecchio copy in the early 1970s. I remember seeing one in a music shop in Huntington, WV. I can’t swear of its quality, but Conrad typically made guitars for department store sales as were many Japanese manufactured instruments of the era.

Casa Del Vecchio Ltda. of São Paulo, Brazil is still in business and only makes one resonator model – a 10 string (five courses) Viola Dinamica Especial. The strings are in five courses and it appears to be of a smaller body than a typical guitar. It is painted a wild green and yellow. I would imagine that the tuning is similar to a 10 string mandolin (C G D A E).

Santo and Johnny’s Original

The Farina brothers took this original instrumental to the top spot for two weeks in 1959. Santo played a triple neck Fender console steel guitar. Each neck had eight strings and the tuning possibilities were endless.

I never tried playing this song until recently, but quickly realized that it was not your typical progression as the fourth chord was a minor rather than a major fourth. It gives “Sleep Walk” its unique character.

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