Born William Thomas Emmanuel, May 31, 1955 at Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia; married, wife's name Jane; children: Amanda. Addresses: Official fan club--PO Box 1019, Hampton North, Victoria 3188, Australia. Website--

Tommy Emmanuel, one of Australia's foremost instrumentalists, stated in his Epic Records press release: "To me, music is something that is beautiful and positive. If I can pass that torch on to others, then I'm happy." This extraordinary guitarist has attained world renown status, and at 43 years old, is already considered a legend. "To say I'm blessed would be an understatement," he stated in his biography on the Sony Music Artist Info website. "Half the time I'm waiting for someone to pinch me and wake me up from this dream."

William Tommy Emmanuel was born on May 31, 1955 at Muswellbrook, New South Wales, Australia. He grew up with five siblings; Chris, Virginia, Phil, Darcy, and Veronica. Emmanuel first started playing at the age of four. The first guitar tune that he learned was Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie." In 1960 he started his first band called The Emmanuel Quartet. It was a family affair, with Tommy on rhythm guitar, Phil on lead guitar, Chris on drums, and Virginia on Hawaiian steel guitar. He and his wife Jane have a daughter named Amanda, and he still performs with his brother Phil.

As a young boy, Tommy practiced an average of 16 hours a day, sometimes in pubs. Early in his career, it was evident that he was very ambitious. He has worked with many renown artists in the music industry and has composed and arranged many successful songs. His musical versatility is evident in the different types of musical styles he's played; jazz, rock and roll, bluegrass, country, and even classical. "I never shy away from a word like 'pop', Frank Sinatra is a pop singer, he sings popular music," stated Emmanuel in his online biography. "Bach was a pop composer, and yes, I'm a pop guitar player. I have roots in all sorts of different styles of music, and I'm able to draw on all of that. At the end of the day, the thing that pulls it all together is my sense of melody."

Emmanuel was inspired by the great American guitarists Chet Atkins and Hank B. Marvin of The Shadows. Emmanuel stated in his biography, "I heard a track of {Atkins'} on the radio and did a total backflip. That lovely fingerpicking led to my picking up the guitar. When I was in my mid-teens, I sent Chet a fan letter and he wrote me back--I've still got his letter. In the early '80s, I went to Nashville for the sole purpose of meeting him." Later on in his career, Emmanuel and Atkins turned out to be a successful pair that often performed together. John Anderson from Newsday stated, "Emmanuel professes a lifelong passion for Atkins' playing, and he obviously has studied it, because it's hard to tell where the teacher stops and the student starts. They play seamlessly, with a great deal of humor."

Another strong influence in Emmanuel's successful career has been the Maton Guitar. It is made by Maton, a Melbourne company in Australia. The model MS500 solid body was Emmanuel's first Maton, and he started playing it at the age of six. It is his instrument of choice and he owns about eight of them. In June 1988, he was playing a Takamine guitar. At that time, the owner of the company approached him and asked if they could develop a model that met his high playing standards. Emmanuel agreed and the company soon produced the T/E Artist & Signature guitar. This model features Emmanuel's signature engraved into the fingerboard. It is estimated that over 500 have been made. Today, Emmanuel acts as a consultant to the company to ensure the model guitar maintains its high degree of sound quality and playability.

In 1995 a dream to play with an orchestra was made possible with the production of the album Classical Gas, which received widespread fame and went gold in Australia. "It was something I'd wanted to do for many years," the artist stated on the Sony website. "I wanted to try things I'd never tried before, but at the same time I didn't want to bite off more than I could chew." Some of the album was recorded live outdoors with the Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, and some was recorded in a Melbourne studio with the same ensemble. Many of his most well-known songs are on the album, including "The Journey," "Run a Good Race," "Who Dates Wins," and "Initiation." New songs included "Padre" and "She Never Knew." The album finishes with a "fiery duet" between Emmanuel and Slava Grigoryan, a fast rising 20-year-old Spanish guitar player from Melbourne. "The great thing about an orchestra is their range," the artist state on the Sony website. "They can play with this incredible subtlety, and it can be so beautiful--but when they really rip into something, the volume is just unbelievable. If you're standing next to them, it nearly blows you away."

Another album, Can't Get Enough, really brought out the excellence of his acoustic guitar work. Randy Goodrum, a Nashville keyboard player and songwriter, is also on the album, which was recorded in Melbourne, Nashville, and Los Angeles, and was produced by Goodrum and Emmanuel. Warren Hill was on sax, Tom Brechtlein on drums, and Nathan East on brass. Chet Atkins and guitar players Larry Carlton and Robben Ford are three guests on the album. Richie Yorke in the Sunday Mail asserted, "On first hearing of the opening track ... you'd swear you were listening to something new and fresh from Steely Dan ... Can't Get Enough has all the earmarks of an international hit at a point in musical history when traditional instrumentalists have been in short supply." Emmanuel stated that the song "Inner Voice" was one of the best on the album. "It's an interesting piece of music and I got the idea from a James Taylor song called 'Baby Boom Baby' from the Never Die Young album ... it has a real haunting flavour to it ... the eerie sound comes from a Brazilian instrument called the hose, which you swing above your head. Other songs on the album include "Song For Nature," "Stay Close To Me," "Change for Good," "Reggie's Groove," "Drivetime," "How Many Sleeps?" and "Fields of Gold."

The 1994 all instrumental collection called The Journey was his first U.S. release. Others on the album included Chet Atkins on guitar, Joe Walsh on guitar, Jerry Goodman on violin, and Dave Koz on saxophone. The Journey was produced by American guitarist Rick Neigher. Twelve songs made up the album, some of which are "Hellos and Goodbyes," "The Journey," "If your Heart Tells You To," "Amy," "Tailin' The Invisible Man," and "Villa Anita."

Emmanuel's awards include Australia's Best Guitarist in Juke Magazine for 1986, 1987, and 1988. He received the 1988 Studio Musician of the Year award in Bi-Centennial Music Week. The recipient of numerous Rolling Stone Magazine awards such as Most Popular Guitarist in 1989 and 1990 and Best Guitarist from 1991 through 1994, he also received Australian Adult Contemporary Record of the Year in 1991 and 1993. He was named Australian Performer of the Year by the MO Awards in 1995 and 1997. He also received a gold record for the sale of Classical Gas.

by Bill Bennett

Tommy Emmanuel's Career

Started playing guitar at age four; played jazz, rock, bluegrass, country, and classical; inspired by the great American guitarists Chet Atkins and Hank B. Marvin.

Tommy Emmanuel's Awards

Australia's Best Guitarist by Juke Magazine, 1986, 1987, and 1988; Studio Musician of the Year award in Bi-Centennial Music Week, 1988; recipient of numerous Rolling Stone awards including Most Popular Guitarist, 1989 and 1990, and Best Guitarist from 1991 through 1994; Australian Adult Contemporary Record of the Year for Determination, 1991 and for The Journey, 1993.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

July 13, 2004: Emmanuel's album, Great Tommy Emmanuel, was released. Source:,, August 5, 2004.

Further Reading


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about 14 years ago

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