Amateur Radio News

Legendary Recording Artist Chet Atkins, W4CGP-SK, Inducted into CQ Hall of Fame

Legendary country music artist and Amateur Radio operator Chet Atkins, W4CGP-SK, was inducted into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame this year, along with six other award recipients. The honor is reserved for Hams of note who make significant contributions to the Amateur Radio community or society at large. As a longtime Ham Radio enthusiast and country music influencer, Mr. Atkins achieved both during his lifetime.

Born in 1924 on his family’s Tennessee farm, Atkins learned to play the fiddle as a result of his brother’s persistent urging—and is rumored to have traded a pistol for a guitar at the age of nine. He was an accomplished guitarist by the time he graduated high school in 1941, and worked his first radio job, on WRBL-AM, the same year. Soon after, he landed a pivotal role at WNOX, working under the tutelage of singing great Bill Carlisle. He toured with many well-known groups during the 1940s, including Red Foley, the Carter Family, and Kitty Wells.

His big break came in the 1950s when RCA executive Steve Sholes took Atkins under his wing, using him as the house guitarist on recording sessions. By 1953 Atkins was recording his own instrumental albums. Atkins’ career took off—he recorded more than 75 albums and sold more than 75 million records. The strum of his guitar is even present in chart topping classics like Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up, Little Susie,” and music by the late great Hank Williams. Atkins would later earn the title of “Mister Guitar.”

One of the most powerful people in Nashville during the 1960s, Atkins worked as a producer at RCA giving stars like Eddy Arnold, Don Gibson, and Jim Reeves their start. He was dubbed “the King of Music Row,” and is credited with creating the “Nashville Sound”—music characterized by string sections and echo that many claim helped popularize country music for mainstream listeners.

Atkins made his longtime love of Amateur Radio public in 1988, with the release of the American Radio Relay League’s promotional video The New World of Amateur Radio where he’s heard stating, “Hello, I’m Chet Atkins. You probably know me as a guitarist, but I’m also an Amateur Radio operator. I have been for over 20 years and my call is WA4CZD.” He earned his General license in 1998, becoming an ARRL member, and changing his call sign to the more fitting W4CGP—for Certified Guitar Picker. Atkins later created the closing theme song for an ARRL and AMSAT video titled Ham Radio in Space and remained very involved in Amateur Radio into his later years. 

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