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Tommy Emmanuel est un guitariste acoustique australien né le 31 mai 1955 à Muswellbrook (Nouvelle-Galles du Sud, Australie), spécialisé dans le jeu en fingerpicking. Il utilise son incroyable virtuosité pour jouer des genres très variés : pop, folk, jazz, blues, boogie, rock. Il travaille également les reprises et les medleys, par exemple des Beatles (Imagine, Lady Madonna, Day Tripper).
Ayant commencé l'apprentissage de la guitare à 4 ans, il est professionnel à 5 ans dans l'orchestre de ses parents. En 1966 à la mort de son père, il donne des cours de guitare (il a 12 ans). Vers cette époque il gagne un concours national qui assoit sa notoriété.
Sa maîtrise de la guitare, son prodigieux habilité et le contact exceptionnel qu'il sait entretenir avec le public lui ont valu des admirateurs dans le monde entier, réputation renforcée par le fait qu'il n'a jamais suivi de cours académiques. Il est reconnu pour son style très technique, mais lui-même ne se prend pas au sérieux, notamment sur scène. Il n'hésite d'ailleurs pas à utiliser et à jouer avec des accessoires (citons des balais de batterie), pour le plus grand plaisir visuel et acoustique de ses fans. C'est aussi un professionnel reconnu des percussions ; il utilise souvent les extraordinaires possibilités de sa guitare pour créer des effets de percussion qui accompagnent son jeu de guitare. Il parcourt le monde, n'hésitant pas à jouer dans des "petites" salles, où il est apprécié tout autant pour sa virtuosité que pour son immense capacité à communiquer avec son public.
Un moment-clé de sa carrière a été sa performance en live avec Phil Emmanuel à l'occasion de la cérémonie de clôture des jeux olympiques qui se sont déroulés à Sydney en 2000, événement qui a été regardé par 1 milliard de personnes.
Tommy Emmanuel est CGP (certified guitar player), titre décerné par Chet Atkins et n'ayant été reçu que par trois autres personnes dans le monde (Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner et John Knowles) pour sa contribution au développement du style "fingerpicking". À ce titre, ses guitares (de la marque australienne Maton) sont ornées sur la douzième case du manche d'une incrustation en nacre formée de ces trois lettres.
C'est un véritable show-man qui a amené le finger-picking vers des sommets dans la lignée de virtuoses tels Chet Atkins (son mentor), Merle Travis ou encore le français Marcel Dadi. Il a joué notamment avec Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Georges Martin et John Denver.
Tommy Emmanuel is an Australian guitarist, best known for his complex fingerpicking style, energetic performances and the use of percussive effects on the guitar.
Tommy was born in the Upper Hunter in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia. He received his guitar in 1959 at the age of 4 - being taught by his mother to accompany her playing lap steel guitar.
By the age of 9, in 1964, 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 and were often 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.
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 countless 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 '70s rock group Dragon, touring widely with them, including a 1987 tour with Tina Turner. He left the group to embark on a solo career.
Throughout his career he has played with many notable artists including Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Sir George Martin, Air Supply, John Denver and Les Paul.
In 1994 he became a member of the John Farnham Band. Australian music veteran John Farnham invited him to play guitar next to Stuart Fraser from Noiseworks for the Concert For Rwanda.
Late in 2007 he was diagnosed with heart issues and was forced to take a break from his hectic touring schedule due to exhaustion, but returned to full-time touring in early 2008.
Tommy 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 Tommy 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.
He frequently uses his left thumb to fret bass notes on the 5th and 6th strings as well as playing chords such as Am and E with just two fingers. He uses a thumb pick mostly, a flat pick or just fingers.
His main guitar is a small-bodied custom Maton EBG808, that is fitted with a pickup and an internal condenser microphone, to which he has given the nickname "Mouse" due to its quieter volume unplugged but massive sound when plugged into an amp. Two of his three main stage guitars, notably his signature TE1 Maton dreadnought, are battered and worn on the necks and soundboards from his excessive playing and percussive techniques on them. He recently stated at a workshop during his annual festival, Tommyfest UK (2008), that all three of his stage guitars have been broken and repaired numerous times over the years.
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