You don’t see these very often, but here’s a fine example of a very influential guitar – a Gibson Chet Atkins CE (Classical Electric) Solidbody Classical from 1984.
The late, great Chet Atkins was responsible for not only great music, but a number of musical innovations. Given his many performances over decades, under a very wide range of conditions, it’s not surprising that he often sought out ways to control or prevent feedback at stage volumes.
Gretsch’s trestle bracing scheme was a direct result of Chet’s request. By the 1970’s, Chet was often playing a classical guitar, and in 1981, Gibson introduced the Chet Atkins CE and CEC models, which allowed feedback-free classical playing at amplified stage volumes.
These solidbody ‘classical’ guitars owe more to Les Paul than to Ramirez, with a spruce cap on a cutaway, solid mahogany body. These were the first of the now-popular ‘crossover’ classical instruments. This type of instrument is frequently found on Latin music stages, where the responsiveness and expression of the nylon string works so well.
Produced from 1981 to 1995, the Gibson Chet Atkins CE and CEC models are nearly identical, with the primary differences being the fingerboard material (rosewood or ebony) and the nut width – 1.75 inch on the CE and a full, ‘standard classical’ 2 inches on the CEC.
They use a multi-element piezo bridge pickup with a battery-powered preamp that balances out the sometimes trebly output of a piezo.
Serial Number 812xxxxx, which dates to May 1984. Built at the Gibson plant in Nashville, Tennessee.
Neck - Mahogany neck with unbound rosewood fingerboard 25.5” (640mm) scale length, 1.75 inch nut width, rosewood headplate.
Frets - Original frets with no wear showing.
Body - Cutaway classical body with comfort contour at the rear. Mahogany slab body with bound spruce cap, rosewood bridge. There is a ‘soundhole’ cover with the Chet Atkins & Gibson logos, but it’s entirely for aesthetics and a more traditional look for an otherwise radically innovative instrument.
Finish - Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer finish in excellent condition.
Hardware & electronics are entirely original, with gold Gibson-branded tuners, gold plated control and output jack plates, original piezo pickup and controls.
The pickup system consists of six individual piezos that are installed under the bridge. The pickup signal is preamplified in the control cavity (that consequently houses a 9V battery), a volume control and the (active) tone control is located on the rim of the guitar (later models have a bass and treble control). A really useful feature are six trim pots inside the control cavity that allow to adjust the volume for each string individually so that you can equalize volume differences easily.
A few very small dents and light pick swirling on the top. Similar on the back, but overall this guitar is in great condition. There is some natural fading of the finish in a few spots, but we think this just adds to the vibe of an instrument coming into its 36th year.
Most importantly, it plays really nicely, and sounds brilliant when plugged into a decent acoustic amp or PA system. The action is medium low, and clean all the way up the neck.
This Chet CE has been used professionally for many years on some big stages in Australia & overseas. At 9.6 lbs it’s no lightweight, but feels comfortable and balanced when standing. It’s a super solid instrument that will deliver the goods when you need it. Just ask Mark Knopfler who used a CE for years on Dire Straits tours.
The Gibson Chet Atkins CE is a classic model now having been discontinued for many years. It was ahead of its time when it first appeared, and still holds up brilliantly today. It is the perfect nylon string guitar for live performance, especially if you like it loud. You can turn this thing up and it will cut through the mix with lots of tone and no feedback.
Comes in original Gibson hard case in excellent condition.
Video Demo here -