About Tommy Emmanuel
Two-time Grammy nominee Tommy Emmanuel has a professional career that spans over four decades and continues to intersect with some of the finest musicians throughout the world. A household name in his native Australia, Tommy has garnered hundreds of thousands of loyal fans worldwide. Tommy’s unique style – he calls it simply “finger style” – is akin to playing guitar the way a pianist plays piano, using all ten fingers.
Guitar legend Chet Atkins was one of the first to inspire Emmanuel to pick up the instrument. Decades later, Atkins himself became one of Emmanuel’s biggest fans. Chet and Tommy eventually recorded together in 1996 on “The Day the Finger Pickers Took Over the World”, for which Emmanuel’s received his first Grammy award nomination. This was Chet’s last recording before his death in 2001. In 1999, Chet honored Tommy Emmanuel the rare title of “Certified Guitar Player” for his lifetime contribution to the art of fingerstyle guitar playing, a rare honor shared by only three other people in the world (Jerry Reed, Steve Warner and John Knowles).
His latest recording “The Mystery” (Favored Nations Acoustic) achieved major recognition and garnered Tommy’s second Grammy nomination, for the song “Gameshow Rag/Cannonball Rag” in the ‘Best Country Instrumental’ field. Additional standouts on the CD include “Lewis and Clark”, “The Mystery” and “Walls”, a vocal duet with his fiancée Lizzie Watkins. In addition, he has recorded two live-performance DVDs, two guitar instructional DVDs and is well regarded for mentoring many guitar students, offering them guitar workshops and master classes. Tommy is also an accomplished record producer and musical arranger. He recently produced “One More Kiss” the new CD by popular Australian female acoustic duo, Bluehouse. He also plays guitar and drums on all thirteen tracks.
Recent accolades include induction into the Thumb pickers Hall of Fame in Muhlenberg, Kentucky – the only non-American so honored, and Acoustic Guitar Magazine readers’ poll named him in the top 3 favorite artists and his album “ONLY” in the top 4 favorite albums of all time.
In his storied career, including 16 recordings, Emmanuel has set sales records that have yet to be broken and performed with hundreds of musical legends including Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Keith Urban, Eric Clapton, Sir George Martin, Tina Turner, Joe Walsh, Stevie Wonder, Nokie Edwards (of the Ventures), Hank Marvin, the Lexington (Kentucky) Philharmonic, the Dortmund (Germany) Symphony, and the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to his accomplished guitar career, Tommy also plays drums (on a drum kit AND on his guitar) and sings, too. He was voted Rolling Stone (Australia) Magazine’s “Most Popular Guitarist” for two consecutive years, and earned four Platinum and Gold albums. Emmanuel also received two consecutive “Golden Guitar” awards (2006, 2007) at the CMAA Awards in Australia. And then, of course, there was his appearance with his brother Phil at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Closing Ceremonies. 2.25 billion people around the world experienced the broadcast that evening. Definitely a career highlight.
Emmanuel’s music and life are legendary in Australia. He began playing guitar at age 4, learning to play by ear without any formal instruction. Emmanuel and his older brother Phil were child prodigies, starting their professional career in the 1960s. By the age of six, Tommy was already working as a professional musician. Shortly after his father’s death in 1966, the Emmanuel family was approached by Australian country music star Buddy Williams, who took the family on the road until they were forced by the Australian child welfare department to stop traveling. The Emmanuel children were then sent to a regular school.
During these years, Tommy was playing in “The Trailblazers” (with siblings Chris on drums and Virginia on slide guitar) on weekends. He also taught guitar and made numerous television appearances in musical competitions. Emmanuel’s first brush with fame and accolades came when The Trailblazers won two televised talent contests and produced an EP. He and his siblings worked hard to create the family’s sole income for several years.
Flush with success, Emmanuel, now in his early teens, left home and moved to Sydney to pursue a professional career as a guitarist. Playing in clubs all over the city, Emmanuel’s guitar skills were on public display and did not go unnoticed for very long. He soon found himself in high demand as a session player for some of the era’s most popular performers. During the mid 70s through the early ’80s, he joined one of the decade’s biggest, Dragon, recorded thousands of commercial “jingles” and played on recordings for Air Supply, Men at Work and dozens of other popular artists. In 1987, Dragon toured with Tina Turner on her “Break Every Rule” tour.
In recent years, Tommy has performed for new audiences in Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Belgium, Korea, Singapore and Japan…along with additional touring throughout the USA, Canada, Europe and Asia. His dazzling performances, flawless guitar skills and voluminous repertoire never fail to amaze audiences and engage thousands of new fans everywhere. In addition, Tommy hosts several “TommyFest” concerts, where stellar international musicians are invited to share the stage in a 4-day all-out celebration of music.
From the wilds of Australia’s outback to bustling major cities throughout the world, Emmanuel’s flair and unforgettable showmanship have created an enviable fan base that continues to grow even larger every year.