William Thomas “Tommy” Emmanuel AM (born 31 May 1955) is an Australian guitarist, songwriter and occasional singer, best known for his complex fingerstyle technique, energetic performances and the use of percussive effects on the guitar. Although originally a session player in many bands, Emmanuel has carved out his own style as a solo artist in recent years, releasing award winning albums and singles. In the May 2008 and 2010 issues of Guitar Player Magazine, he was named “Best Acoustic Guitarist” in their readers’ poll. In June 2010 Emmanuel was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Emmanuel was born in Muswellbrook, Australia in 1955. He received his first guitar in 1959 at age four and was taught by his mother to accompany her playing lap steel guitar. At the age of seven in 1961 he heard a young Chet Atkins playing on the radio. He vividly remembers this moment and says it greatly inspired him.
By the age of six, in 1961, he was a working professional musician. Recognizing the musical talents of Tommy and his older brother Phillip “Phil” Emmanuel, 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 them, playing rhythm guitar, and rarely going to school. The family found it difficult living on the road; they were poor but never hungry, never settling in one place. His father would often drive ahead, organize interviews, advertising and finding the local music shop where they would have an impromptu concert the next day. Eventually the New South Wales Department of Education insisted that the Emmanuel children needed to go to school regularly.