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Cover photo of Eddie Pennington cassette
Cover photo of "That Muhlenberg Sound" audiocassette by thumb-picker Eddie Pennington

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National Thumb Pickers Hall of Fame
A Local Legacy

Have you ever heard of thumb-picking? It is a style of guitar playing in which the fingers pick out a melody and the thumb picks out bass notes. Have you listened to folk musicians such as Jewel, James Taylor or Paul Simon? All of these artists have used thumb-picking on their recordings.

One form of thumb-picking developed in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, back in the 1920s and was made famous by guitarists such as Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. In Muhlenberg, this particular style of guitar playing is so popular that there is even a Thumb Pickers Hall of Fame and an annual Thumb Picking Contest!

Most thumb-pickers use a flexible plastic pick on their thumb to pluck the strings. The effect makes it sound as though two guitars are being played at once -- a rhythm guitar and a lead guitar. This style of playing was first heard in country music in the 1920s, and was passed down from generation to generation. Its popularity grew, and today many players of rock and folk also use this style.

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