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Sunday, May 20, 2012
Coyote Calhoun Page
One of the most
popular night jocks in WAKY's history was Coyote Calhoun. On this
page you'll find articles about Coyote. (Download Coyote Calhoun WAKY
16's Deejay Of The Month - October 1975
If you're one of those lucky folks
who happens to be near a radio in Louisville, Kentucky, from six to
ten any evening Monday through Friday, you'll be able to tune in on
Coyote Calhoun, one of the most unusual and scintillating radio
personalities in the entire world!
With a wit and manner of dress just
as wild and crazy as his name, this wacky deejay is just about the
favorite hero and idol of all the young people within the sound of
his voice -- and that's quite a few guys and girls! Cooky Coyote is
therefore much in demand at local schools as a guest speaker, or at
clubs and dances throughout the area, where his mere presence is
enough to send the assembled teens into a frenzy of delight! The
kids love him for his great sense of humor (you wouldn't believe
some of the krrazy far-out flipped-out and wiggy things Coyote says
and does!), and they adore him as well for his cosmically insane
wardrobe. Coyote's clothes closets are full of nothing but
colorfully-patched jeans (ooo-wee!) and more than 1975 tee shirts
bearing the images of nationally-known recording artists! Coyote
doesn't even own an ordinary sport shirt, much less a suit. How
trendy can you get?!
Coyote hails from Muskogee,
Oklahoma, where his father owns a radio station. His career has
taken him to Wichita, Chattanooga and Knoxville, where he was
discovered by a talent scout from WAKY. Coyote is single, and loves
girls who have a great sense of humor! You can write to him at WAKY,
554 South Fourth, Louisville, KY, 40202.
Courier-Journal Magazine Article - April 23, 1989
He began as a howling,
if-you-don't-like-it-kiss-my-boots party animal.
He ended up top afternoon disc jockey in town.
By Bob Hill
Somewhere toward the shank of
another very good evening, somewhere after Coyote Calhoun had left
his East End apartment in a large black limousine with a lovely
young blonde in hand to emcee a Jo-El Sounier-Charlie
Daniels-Alabama concert and then make a run toward a few drinks at a
local country bar, somewhere in the middle of all that, from the
dark of his leather seat, Coyote Calhoun began talking about
Well, maybe not talking directly about responsibility. Calhoun is a
bachelor whose refrigerator contains a case of beer, several bottles
of wine, a half-dozen bottles of vitamin pills and a box of Girl
Scout cookies. Calhoun, the pride of WAMZ-FM country stereo, is a
man who had a stuffed armadillo as a table centerpiece until his
good friends - four of whom shared the limousine with him - talked
him into putting it in the china closet.
He is a man who at the very instant he was talking indirectly about
responsibility was wearing a snug cream-colored,
hand-tailored-in-California jacket emblazoned with red and blue
wagon wheels; a red plaid, monogrammed shirt with a silver bolo and
a flashy metallic slide; crisply creased jeans; and one of his 37
pairs of boots - these being of ostrich hide.
Calhoun was making allusions about responsibility. He was joking
about it, mocking it, perhaps even still arm-wrestling with it, but
doing so as a man closing in on 40 (he's 38), a man who knows how to
have a very good time - provided the work gets done first.
Responsibility has stalked Calhoun as much as he has stalked it. His
own father fired him from one of his first radio jobs after a
particularly sorry incident involving tequila, a wrecked Camaro, no
automobile insurance and Coyote being seriously late for work.
In the early years - following the mysterious Code of the Disc
Jockey - he'd barely let the engine of his battered T-bird cool
outside one radio station before hearing the siren call letters of
another. He first came trotting into Louisville in 1973, working for
the late, great WAKY, where he would literally howl at teenagers -
what else could a Coyote do? - for about four hours every evening.
So wondrous was this howl that when a tape of it was played for
nostalgia's sake at a recent Country Music Association convention,
Calhoun received a standing ovation from his peers.
In 1979 Calhoun was fired from WAKY - but then everybody at
WAKY was fired at least twice. He left Louisville briefly, and
returned in 1980 to rescue WAMZ-FM, 100,000 of America's most wasted
watts, turning it into one of the country's best country music
Calhoun is now the most-listened-to disc jockey in afternoon radio
in the Louisville area, topping even the cogent insanity of Terry
Meiners, the afternoon boss at WHAS-AM, WAMZ's sister station.
Calhoun is also WAMZ's program director, ultimately responsible for
its music, its promotions and the hirings and firings of its staff,
and very few people have left since he's been in charge. Come to
think about it, Calhoun has been in Louisville most of 16 years;
he's become a pretty good sign of stability himself.
Louisville is also good country country. WAMZ and Calhoun have won a
half-dozen major-league awards since his arrival. WAMZ was named The
Academy of Country Music Radio Station of the Year in 1986, an award
a station can win only once.
medium-sized markets, Calhoun was named Air Personality of the Year
in 1986 by the Country Music Association, and in 1987 Billboard
magazine named him Radio Air Personality of the ear, and Music
Director of the Year. He was also named to the board of directors of
the Country Music Association in 1987, a sure measure of the respect
he has found within the industry.
Calhoun is also a man who six years ago quit smoking, began jogging,
and now runs about six miles a day, frequently competing in local 5-
and 10-kilometer runs, as well as an occasional marathon - all 26
miles, 385 yards.
Responsibility can bring balance and, on the whole, a happy man.
"I don't get down very much or feel sorry for myself," he said. "I'm
always in a pretty good mood. So many good things have happened to
me that when I start to thinking that this is lousy or that is
lousy, then I have to tell myself, 'Hey, Man, take another good look
at just how good you've got it.'"
Calhoun was born in San Marcos, Texas, but finished high school in
Coffeyville, Kansas, which partly explains his distinctive nasal
twang - part West Texas with a nice overlay of Kansas cooking.
He was a good baseball player in high school and has remained such a
fan and student of the game that he is probably one of three adults
in America who can name the starting lineup of the 1958 Kansas City
Athletics. He was also an excellent high school runner, competing in
the mile run at the Kansas state meet in which the legendary Jim
Ryan became the first high-schooler to break four minutes.
"We were all over here and we could look across the infield and see
Ryan way over there," Calhoun said.
His father was a movable disc jockey and radio executive who
eventually bought a station in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Calhoun hung
around the stations - he collected but eventually wore out a huge
collection of classic 45 rpm records - but didn't do any radio while
in high school.
"I was the class clown," he said. "I was pretty much 'on' most of
the time. I enjoyed making people laugh. I didn't work in radio then
because if I did I couldn't go out nights and weekends and mess
around and chase women.
"But one day the school paper asked the students to name the ideal
faculty for one day, and they named me to be the superintendent of
Calhoun runs about six miles a day and
competes in local 5- and 10-kilometer runs and marathons.
Calhoun went to
University of Oklahoma right out of high school, accumulating a
grade point average slightly above that of a warm football.
"I majored in study hall and having a good time," he said. "All of a
sudden my grades came back from the first semester, and my dad said,
'Forget about this.'"
Using the name Jack Diamond, Calhoun (which incidentally isn't his
real name either; he doesn't give that out) found work as a disc
jockey at a country station in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, which isn't too
far from Hanson and Marble City. He lasted three months.
"I wasn't very good," he said.
He then worked at his father's station for about a year. The
aforementioned incident involving tequila and a new car cut short
his career there.
"My dad fired my ---." Calhoun said. "He flat fired my ---. It was a
case of back then, I had no responsibilities. Looking back on it
now, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I had to
go out and get a real job."
"I was kinda wild back then," he said, "but I didn't do anything
that I thought would get me in a whole lot of trouble. Let's put it
this way: [Calhoun often begins making a major point with that
little phrase] I used the wrong judgment periodically. I was out of
work for a while, and it was time to sit back and evaluate the whole
He didn't sit back long enough. Calhoun's next stop was at a station
in Topeka, Kansas. He was there two weeks; his decision to move on
was prompted by being in the middle of a Kansas blizzard when a job
offer came in from Mobile, Alabama.
"I got the offer from Alabama the night before," he said, "I'd gone
in to work in Topeka, but I wasn't on the air yet. I'm sitting there
in the middle of a blizzard and I tell the guy who was on the air,
'Listen, I got to get a pack of cigarettes; I'll be right back…'
"I got in my car and out of there…. I heard the guy on the radio
saying, 'Jack Diamond will be back on any minute; they must have
been out of his brand, or something.'
"Man, I was gone. It was Mobile, here I come."
And Mobile there he went. Within three months, Calhoun packed his
suitcase and found an all-new employer - the United States
"Let's put it this way," he said. "Uncle Sam decided since I didn't
have any real regular plans he might as well make plans for me. I
knew for some time it was inevitable I would be drafted. I could
have joined the Army, but nobody wanted to join the Marine Corps
back then, so I joined the Marines. I figured, 'What the hell; two
years is two years.'"
The Marines were still being fed to Vietnam on a regular basis when
Calhoun joined. Since he could type, his aptitude tests showed would
make a good clerk. The Marines made him a truck driver, with Vietnam
on his travel plans. He then seriously injured a knee in a touch
football game, and found a new line of work.
"I was bored when I was recovering," he said, "So I asked if I could
help at the bar [of the enlisted men's club]. Then the guy in charge
of the bar got a woman Marine pregnant, flipped out and went over
"Nobody else knew how to run the bar. So my duty was switched from
truck driver to special services bartender. I had to mix those
drinks and plan those parties for almost two years. My God, it was
Yet Marine boot camp, the training, the regimen, did have some
"Let's put it this way," he said. "I don't know if I settled down,
but I had a helluva lot more respect for authority."
Well, almost. After his Marine Corps stint, Calhoun went to a rock
station in Wichita for about nine months; then, in February 1973, he
moved to a small station in Knoxville, Tennessee. There, for perhaps
the first time, he got a real sense of what he could do.
"Knoxville was the first place where I was really involved in a
major ratings battle - and won," he said. "I was working on a
station that had its power cut to 250 watts at night going up
against a station that had 10,000 watts.
"I was loud and abrasive. I was after the teens. I was a screamer
like I was at WAKY, and I won. It was the greatest moment of my
life. It was unheard of that a station with as little power as we
had could win."
Word of Calhoun's success - well, OK, 250-watt whispers of his
success - reached Johnny Randolph, then program director at WAKY.
Randolph, Calhoun said, wanted to hear him live. So Randolph called
a friend in Knoxville and had him place the phone against the radio
to hear Calhoun's show.
"The friend told Randolph he'd better call early because after the
power was cut he couldn't hear me," Calhoun said. "Randolph couldn't
believe it. He was saying, 'And this guy won?'"
Calhoun, who has almost total recall of important times and days,
was flown to Louisville on a Sunday in September 1973 for a job
interview at WAKY. He was in his early 20s. His working name had
remained Jack Diamond, but it was soon changed to Coyote Calhoun, a
name now so familiar it is accepted without raised eyebrow, but a
very unusual name for a full-grown man nonetheless.
"Gary Burbank gave it to me." Calhoun said, referring to another
legendary Louisville disc jockey who now works for WLW in
Cincinnati. "Gary became one of my best friends. He's great at
thinking up stupid things. He's a real funny guy."
As Burbank remembered it, the Coyote name was a conscious take-off
on Wolfman Jack.
"And I always thought that Coyote looked a little like the coyote in
the Road Runner cartoon anyway," Burbank said.
Burbank was also around during Calhoun's formative years as a party
"The story goes that Jimmy Buffett, who knew a little bit about
partying himself, got up all bleary-eyed at a press conference at a
country music convention and said he thought he could party until he
went out with Coyote Calhoun, but he'd never do it again," Burbank
Burbank also said that when Calhoun arrived in Louisville he was
down to one pair of jeans, and those had a big hole in the crotch, a
story Calhoun can't dispute.
"I was making $135 a week, and I came here for $250 a week," he
said. "I thought I was rich. I thought, 'Damn, I'm going to be able
to eat at least once a day now.'"
Calhoun was at WAKY for almost six years. He began as a screamer but
soon settled his act down a few decibels. He partied, and he
partied, but he also worked, appearing at hundreds of schools,
dances and promotions. He got fired in June 1979.
"I got fired like everybody got fired," he said. "We got some new
owners, and the general manager got fired, but management said no
more changes. Then the sales manager got fired, and they said no
more changes. Then the program director got fired; I'm the assistant
program director, and by them I'm beginning to put two and two
together….I got the strange feeling my number was up."
It was. But by then Calhoun was already looking in another direction
- country music. The only station on which he'd played country music
full time was at his first job in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. All the rest
had been rock stations. But country music was in his soul. He
remembers the night it landed there, like a lot of other people
remember a religious experience.
"One night in December 1972 I came home and turned on a Midnight
Special," he said. "I saw Waylon Jennings on there; he had long
hair, a beard, a mustache and was dressed…well, like me.
"Up to then I thought all country singers dressed like Faron Young
or Porter Waggoner. Waylon looked hip, and then I saw Willie Nelson,
and by the time I got to Merle Haggard I was hooked."
Unemployed again, his life beginning to sound like every country
song you ever heard, Calhoun took a job at a Houston rock station
for about 10 months. But his heart wasn't in it.
"I didn't want to be talking to 13-year-old kids and playing AC/DC
for the rest of my life," he said. "There had to be more."
What Calhoun had in mind was the 100,000 watts of stereo country
music - WAMZ-FM in Louisville, 97.5 on your dial. The station had
gone on the air in the 1960s as a classical music station. Its
godfather was Barry Bingham Jr., whose family owned it.
"I dearly loved classical music, but the station lost about $1
million in eight or nine years," Bingham said.
Faced with such losses, the station switched to an all-news format
in the mid-1970s, using the call letters WNNS, but that didn't work
"We dropped about $1 million in less than two years, Bingham said.
"The staffing was very expensive."
Somebody - Bingham can't remember who - then suggested the station
try country music, not a form of expression for which Bingham had
great affection, but he was about out of options.
"Country music isn't my bag," Bingham said, "but my two bags had
So WNNS became WAMZ-FM stereo country, with the "AM" meaning
"America's Music." The bad news was that the station was run by
computer - it had no live disc jockeys - and it still wasn't
"I'd listen to that station, and I knew what its potential could be
and I about went crazy," Calhoun said. "I knew what it could be."
Even before he left for Houston, Calhoun had met with WAMZ
management, trying to convince them the station needed live disc
jockeys, decent programming and a promotional budget. While he was
in Houston he'd send telegrams to Louisville, saying he wanted the
job as program director. Gary Burbank, then at WHAS, pushed for the
company to hire Calhoun. He was hired on February 1, 1980.
"I took a $5,000 cut in pay," he said, "but in three months I got it
back, and that November they gave me quite a bit more. The station
has always been fair to me."
Calhoun in the WAMZ-FM studio
Calhoun was the only
WAMZ disc jockey for about a year. The station lost its last ratings
battle with another country station in November 1981.
"It was the best thing that ever happened to us," he said. "We got
rid of automation right then and hired disc jockeys. Let's put it
this way: I feel like I'm a really competitive person. I don't have
any passive feelings about losing."
Almost all the disc jockeys Calhoun hired in 1982 are still with the
station. Its ratings consistently dominate the country format; WAMZ
is acknowledged by its peers as being near the top of the 2,500
country stations in the United States; and Coyote's boss and his
employees value his presence.
"Coyote works hard," said Bob Scherer, vice president and general
manager of WHAS and WAMZ. "He's very conscientious. He stays on top
of things. He's very sensitive to his employee's needs. He'll often
come in on holidays and work so the other employees can be with
"Coyote has the respect of all his employees," said Dave Lee,
production director at WAMZ. He's got a way of asking you to do
things that makes you want to do it for him. He never forgot where
he came from. He's flamboyant out front, but underneath all that
he's a real humble guy."
"I've never seen anybody who has such a passion for music and radio
in general as Coyote," said Mike Sirls, promotion director for RCA
Records. "Look at his accomplishments and look as his awards. Radio
is in his blood. His show and his delivery is honest and real, and
basically that's him."
WAMZ is not a station you'd listen to for a lot of conversation. Its
tightly controlled format is about 60 percent older country
favorites, 40 percent newer songs, with a minimum of news, weather
"My listeners want to hear country music, and I give them what they
want to hear," said Calhoun, "We play the songs that are the hits,
that appeal to the masses. I love people like Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff
Walker, and Townes Van Zandt. I have all their records. But let's
put it this way: If I played my personal taste at WAMZ I'd have been
fired years ago."
The news on Calhoun's afternoon show is generally limited to two
afternoon appearances by Ralph Dix, a veteran Louisville reporter.
Most of the news shows are set up, and ended, with running jokes
between Calhoun and Dix, who has a deep, infectious laugh that many
listeners remember long after the news has faded.
"I've had a lot people tell me that they listen just to hear the
laugh," Dix said.
Many of the jokes are fairly low-brow, their message often adhering
Calhoun: "Oops, we have a new memo from management today."
Dix: "What's that?"
Calhoun: "It says, 'To all employees: Due to a recent
outbreak of AIDS, no butt kissing will be tolerated.'"
Calhoun knows a lot of people in the country music business. He's
had dinner with Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker and Fairdale's own
Patty Loveless. The message on his telephone answering machine phone
was recorded by Earl Thomas Conley and done live in Coyote's
apartment after a particularly long evening, which Conley seems to
Coyote will travel to Nashville a half-dozen times a year to mingle
with the stars, and when the Judds were first getting started they
sat down in Coyotes' office at WAMZ for about half an hour and sang
a few songs to get him acquainted with their style.
Which is not say Coyote neglects the home folks. He still makes many
local appearances, including a recent one at the Holiday Inn
Southwest on Dixie Highway.
The big sign out front said "Stretch and Laura - Sales Persons of
the Month." Inside Calhoun was finishing out a long day. He'd
completed the 6.2 mile City Run that morning, made an appearance in
Bullitt County that afternoon to help raise money for flood victims,
helped emcee a T.G. Sheppard concert in New Albany earlier than
evening, and was finishing up his 18-hour day by emceeing an Elvis
"lip-sync" contest at the Holiday Inn, the winner receiving a free
night in a Nashville Holiday Inn.
It was still relatively early in the evening, and Elvis lip-sync
contestants were hard to find, or too sober to pretend to sing "a
hunk, a hunk of burning love" in mixed company. Calhoun sat at a
noisy, crowded table talking about growing up in small towns and the
values it gave him. He talked about wanting to stop in country bars
and talk to the people. He talked about train rides to visit his
grandparents in Illinois, and he talked about another grandfather
who lived in Columbus, Kansas.
"He worked in a clothing store," he said. "He used to let me go to
the store with him. He never had much money, but he was always
perfectly dressed. My dad said he once found outside painting the
house with a tie on.
"He died in September 1962. I loved to visit him. I went back years
later, but they had done a lot of renovation to the house and it was
all different….I cried like a baby."
Eventually a string of Elvis lip-sync contestants rose from the
smoky darkness in the back of the room and took center stage; a
flabby man in khaki pants; a volunteer fireman wearing his
department's jacket; a pretty woman who was soon shaking body parts
that Elvis never had. She won going away.
As the show ended, Coyote, fairly deep in his cups, was up on stage
singing his own version of "Up Against the Wall You Redneck Mother"
a slightly updated version that included the phrase "Getting drunk
and kicking preppies ---."
Calhoun and his friends made a courtesy call at Blinkers & Bernie's
country bar on South Third Street after the Holiday Inn visit. They
concluded the evening - actually the morning - deep in southern
Jefferson County at an establishment where the only visible
entertainment was a stocky, barefoot, drunk and exceedingly
belligerent cowboy who was trying to pick a fight with anyone that
Never let it be said that Coyote Calhoun is reluctant to get out and
mingle with his public.
There was no fight. Nor did Calhoun particularly feel like jogging
when he got home that morning.
Sonny Bishop, who owns a car lot in Hillview, was one of the people
in the Holiday Inn with Calhoun. They have been good friends and
running partners for years.
"He has a high energy level," Bishop said. "But other than that he's
just like everybody else. When I first met him he was coming out of
a four- or five-year relationship with a woman, and so was I. That's
why we drank so much whiskey and got along so good. We used to stay
up until three, four, five in the morning and tell each other how
bad things were going… But he's really upbeat most of the time. He's
changed a lot. He's not as wild as he used to be. Age, time and
responsibility kinda changed that a little bit. But when he goes
out, he's just like he always was."
Denise Kulis was also in the Holiday Inn. She and her husband,
Murphy Kullis, also have long been friends with Calhoun. Her husband
often drives when Calhoun travels. She works in a Hikes Point
"I've known him almost 15 years, and he hasn't changed," she said.
"He's had a lot of girlfriends, but he never keeps one for any
amount of time. They fall in love with him, and they want to get
"He's got to be careful. People will try to take advantage of him
because of the places he can take them, and the people they can
meet. He has to have his barrier up all the time."
Kulis said Calhoun treats his girlfriends very well, sending cards
and flowers on anniversaries and even giving one girl a full-length
"Basically, I think he's a shy person," she said. "Nobody believes
that, but there's a lot more there than what people think. People
tend to think Coyote's got it made, and he does. But he's worked
very hard to get there."
A few weeks after the Holiday Inn show Calhoun was on stage before
18,000 people in Freedom Hall introducing Jo-El Sonnier, with
Charlie Daniels and Alabama to follow.
Daniels had been in the WAMZ studio earlier for a live interview
with Calhoun. He is a big man and, ironically, almost impossible to
recognize when not wearing the large hat that covers the upper half
of his face when he's performing. He and Daniels are comfortable
with each other, and Daniels worked Calhoun's name into his act that
Calhoun is of the announce-the-act-and-get-off-the-stage school of
emceeing. He wasn't on stage 30 seconds, leaving the rest of the
evening free to mingle with the Alabama band and travel to a country
bar in a limousine with friends.
"I really don't get nervous on stage," he said, "but I'm more
comfortable in a Holiday Inn."
When Calhoun retreats, usually on Sunday nights, it is behind the
doors of the apartment he's had for almost 10 years.
"I've got a deal with management," he said, laughing. "If somebody
complains about noise coming from my apartment at 3 a.m. we have
It's a basic suburban apartment, save the stuffed armadillo; a
35-inch television set and a few dozen awards, plaques and replicas
of gold records on the wall; and a tan Corvette parked out front.
His bookcase contains volumes about Harry Truman, his favorite; Ben
Franklin; Willie Nelson; Bob Dylan: Peanuts; sports; and the
American West in the gunfighter days.
At home, Calhoun was wearing a Nike jogging suit and a Houston
Astros baseball cap. His left arm had a tattoo of a devil holding a
pitchfork, with the words "Great Balls of Fire" under it, a reminder
of his Marine days.
"I always swore I'd never get a tattoo," he said. "Then I wake up
one morning with that thing on my arm. I got the lettering from a
song on the jukebox."
Calhoun said he is settling down. When he drinks now, he makes sure
a sober friend drives or he and friends rent a limousine. Jogging
has changed his life, restoring his health and energy, he said. He
is not sure he will remain a bachelor; his friends are.
"I'm not going to get married unless I'm in love," he said, "But,
hey, in the meantime, I like the ladies. I like them a lot. The only
thing that turns me off is when they come on too heavy too quick. I
like a little bit of a challenge. That keeps my interest going.
"I'm not saying run over me. I don't dig that at all. But I like a
Underneath all the flamboyance, he said, insecurities have gnawed at
him over the years, but most have vanished.
"I don't think I'm shy," he said. "I just don't think I handled
myself as well around people when I first came here as I do now. It
mostly depends on my mood and crowd I'm in…. Sometimes I want to be
alone…. Other times I'm a ball of fire.
"The one thing I feel very good about is not only the station doing
well in the ratings, but we've made some pretty good money for the
corporation, which is the name of the game. If we make money for
them, then they'll be happy with me, and I like it a whole lot when
they're happy with me."
Calhoun has no desire to leave Louisville. He's as well-paid as any
other disc jockey in town. He has a three-year contract. He has
friends here. He has freedom here. He has all the responsibility he
wants right here."
"Twenty years from now," he said, "I'm certain I'll still be
involved with this business in some way. I still enjoy being on the
air. I'm really happy with what I'm doing here.
"This is my home. Louisville is my home now. I think I can say I'm
as happy now as I've ever been in any point of my life."
Courier-Journal Business First Feature -
February 24, 1997
A howlin' success
Coyote Calhoun parlays his radio fame into a prestigious position on
Nashville's Music Row
By Rick Redding
Business First Staff Writer
The raspy voice is as familiar to
country music fans as Vince Gill's soothing ballads or a roaring
Garth Brooks anthem.
Coyote Calhoun's life story sounds like it's right out of a country
ballad, complete with failure and heartbreak, whiskey and women, and
a classic ending. This good ol' boy doesn't get the girl, but he
comes out smelling like a rose in his adopted Derby city.
At 44, Calhoun is enjoying the fruits of a lifetime spent in the
"I knew from the time I was a kid, 8 or 9 years old, that this was
what I wanted to do. I've just never thought about doing anything
else," he says. "My dad was in radio. I'd go down to the station,
answer the phone for the guy doing nights. I knew I was going to get
in radio. It was my calling."
Calhoun was given his name in 1973 by former WAKY program director
John Randolph, and had it legally changed in 1992. He prefers that
his former name not be revealed.
As Coyote, he's become a recognized star among record industry
executives in Nashville, the host of his own local television show
and the force behind the success of a string of nightclubs bearing
He's operation director for both WAMZ-FM and WHKW-FM, the Louisville
country stations owned by Clear Channel Radio Inc.; he's a minority
owner in the 5-year-old Coyote's Music and Dance Hall in Louisville,
which has expanded to additional locations in Fort Mitchell,
Kentucky, and Huntington, West Virginia; he's been a member of the
Country Music Association board of directors for a decade; and his
television show, "Coyote's Country," has been a Saturday night
staple for two years on WHAS-TV.
For all of his successes, Calhoun
hasn't lost sight of the country music fans who created all those
opportunities. You can still catch him doing appearances - typically
unpaid - for the station almost daily in the spring and fall.
"For a lot of guys, when you quit doing that, it works against you,"
he says. "If people start thinking you're really unapproachable, you
got a problem. I do it because I like it, and for maintenance. I
just want to make sure I'm doing everything I can do. If it all ends
tomorrow, I can look back and say it wasn't because I didn't try."
Education: Field McKinley High School, Coffeyville,
Kansas, 1970; attended University of Oklahoma
Career: Worked at seven radio station before coming to
WAMZ in 1980: KBOX-Muskogee, Oklahoma; KEWI-Topeka, Kansas;
KEYN-Wichita, Kansas; WGOW-Chattanooga, Tennessee; WKGN-
Knoxville, Tennessee; WAKY-Louisville; KULF-Houston
- Marconi Award by National
Association of Broadcasters-Personality of the Year, Large
Market, 1994, 1996. First personality on non-syndicated show
to win two Marconis.
- Personality of the Year,
Billboard Magazine, six times.
- Program Director of the
Year, Billboard Magazine, seven times
- Air Personality of the
Year, Country Music Association, 1986
Creek subdivision in Lyndon
Birthday: January 29, 1953
Hometown: Coffeyville, Kansas
Calhoun's afternoon show on WAMZ-FM
- the most listened to show on area radio, according to most recent
Arbitron ratings - is the cornerstone of the Coyote mystique. He
came to the station in 1980 as its only disc jockey - the 3-year old
country format was automated at the time - and soon convinced
station owners to hire a full staff of disc jockeys.
Despite his use of jokes that seem to be stolen from old reruns of "Hee-Haw,"
Calhoun has more listeners than Terry Meiners, whose show airs at
the same time on Clear Channel's WHAS-AM. WAMZ, in fact, has won
most of the city's rating battles since the 1980s.
Without exception, those who know him say he's approachable, likable
and friendly. It's a personality that suits the radio business,
which often boils down to a popularity contest.
"I'm not the best person out there, far from it," he says. "I've
noticed that on awards and personal accolades, if you can make a
good impression and make people like you, and if people genuinely
think you're pretty good at running your business, then half the
battle's won right there."
Calhoun has carefully developed contacts in Nashville's country
music scene, which have helped vault him into a prestigious position
on Music Row. He's won radio prestigious Marconi award, along with
more than a dozen of the nation's top programming and
radio-personality awards from Billboard and the Country Music
"A lot of times people say these awards are popularity contests.
Well, great. It proves that people like me. It proves that people
don't hate me. Doing business with people, embracing the music
community, I've done a pretty good job of it and made a lot of
friends," he says.
Ron Hazard, whom Calhoun appointed program director for WHKW-FM when
Clear Channel acquired the station last spring, says a trip to
Nashville with Calhoun was a real eye-opener.
"We were walking down a hall where all these stars and thousands of
people were, and more people were calling out 'Coyote' than they
were for the star," Hazard says.
Calhoun's success in Nashville is
attributable to his development of an impressive local following.
When you keep your station at the top in a midsized market such as
Louisville, opportunities invariably occur to move to bigger
markets. But Calhoun has resisted.
Calhoun got his first job in radio at a small Oklahoma station
shortly after ending a one-semester stint as a college student at
the University of Oklahoma. That first venture into radio lasted
just three months, but he was able to find work with a station owned
by his father. After a year, he found out what it was like to be
fired. By his own father.
"My dad fired me, but that was good, because it was kind of hard to
be your dad and your boss, too," he says.
So he bounced around in radio, eventually ending up a 250-watt
station in Knoxville, Tennessee. After Calhoun's station won that
market's ratings battle, competing against a 10,000-watt powerhouse,
WAKY's Randolph sought out Calhoun for Louisville.
"This was a real easy town for me to get adjusted to," he says, "It
took me about 15 minutes. When I came to WAKY-AM (the Louisville AM
Station that hired Calhoun in 1973), for the first time in my life,
I was at a station where the money was pretty good. In 1973 to be
making $400 a week - that was a pretty good chunk of change."
After being fired from WAKY in 1979 - along with several other
station executives - Calhoun moved on to a Houston station, where he
was also offered the job as a Coyote mascot for baseball's Houston
Astros. Instead, he returned to Louisville and WAMZ in 1980.
Age has mellowed Calhoun; at least
that's what he says. A former smoker who now runs 40-50 miles per
week, he puts a priority on keeping fit. He says he doesn't party
nearly as much as he used to, and sticks to wine and beer when he
The older you get, the more you want to take care of your body," he
says, "Of course, we all want to solidify our financial future, but
if you don't have your health, then it means nothing. It's just
amazing when you get in your 40s and look back at some of the things
you did in your 20s and 30s, you think, 'Why was I so dumb?'"
Of course, what he was mostly doing in this 30s was establishing a
reputation for WAMZ-FM as the kingpin of Louisville radio. The
station first reached the top spot local ratings in 1986, and has
established a unique dominance in the 1990s.
"WAMZ is one of the highest-rated stations in the country," says Bob
Scherer, general manger of Clear Channel Radio and Calhoun's
immediate boss. "That alone brings you a lot of prominence. He knows
what he's doing. He knows what songs to play and how to read jocks."
From the time he took over the programming duties in 1980, Calhoun
says he's been a hands-off manager. Most of the WAMZ staff has a
long tenure at the station, another rare find in radio.
Hazard remembers the way he was first hired by Calhoun.
Hazard was working as a care salesman when a friend told him Calhoun
wanted to talk to him about a job. Hazard gathered a resume and
"He said, 'I don't need that. I know what you sound like. When can
you start?' That was my job interview," Hazard says.
Operations manager, WAMZ-FM and WHKW-FM
Minority Owner, Coyote's Music and Dance Hall
Host, Coyote's Country Television Show
"I don't try to over
manage. Too many times I've seen failure when people try to
do too much. People know the rules around here, and they
know what I expect of them. I've always felt like if you
have more of a positive type of leadership role than one
where you lead by fear, you're gonna have positive results."
"One of the things I'm proudest of is that I've on the
Country Music Association board of directors for 10 years.
That's made up of the top people in the industry. For me to
be voted for 10 consecutive years on the board, it's a real
Goal yet to be achieved: "The goals I have are to
give the ownership here a very successful radio station,
book in and book out. I get as excited over each rating book
as I did 20 years ago. That burning desire to win, if you
lose that, you may have to start thinking about doing
something else. Winning here and to keep winning, that's a
pretty good goal to have."
On a winning attitude: "I still get as jazzed up now
about winning as I ever did. Show me a good loser, and I'll
show you a loser.
- On December 13, 1991, a
Friday, Coyote learned his engagement was over. His
then-fiancée called and left the message on his answering
machine. It was the second time he'd been engaged.
- The oven has never been
turned on in his 4-year -old home in Lyndon. It still has
the original papers inside.
- "One good thing about
having some sort of celebrity status in the town where you
work, sometimes business opportunities will come your way.
Essentially they (the other partners) said, 'We're gonna
give you this amount of action X amount of dollars per week.
We're gonna name it after you.' They've been able to make a
ton of money, and I've been able to do OK myself."
Favorite movie: "The
Godfather." "I have always found the roguish part of our
population very intriguing."
Favorite books: "No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns
Goodwin; "The Complete Book of Running" by Jim Fixx; "Summer
of '49" by David Halberstam. "I like reading about people."
Favorite musical artists: George Strait and Jimmy
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in California. "It's
far away, and I feel like I'm going someplace."
Here's What They Said
Haley, senior director of nation promotion, MCA/Nashville
"In country music radio, I can't think of anyone who is
better known. Despite the fact he's in a position of power,
he's never not talked with anybody that wanted to talk to
him. He's always interested in new projects in business.
Everywhere you go in town with him, he's well-known and
well-liked. He's a character the industry can be proud of."
Bob Scherer, general manager, Clear Channel
"He just fits in Louisville. It just works here, but Coyote
could fit in many markets. He's just a winner. He likes to
be on top. Some people bust their butt to be the best."
Ed Benson, executive director, Country Music Association:
Coyote has a good capacity to shoot straight on issues and
has a good vision of where the industry is going. He's a
really fun guy with an engaging and charming personality."
Colin Harris, partner, Second Street Corporation (Owner
of Coyote's Music and Dance Hall):
"He's the most fun person I've ever been with. Fame doesn't
go to his head. He could talk to the president the same as a
hillbilly in Tennessee."
Erv Woolsey, president, Erv Woolsey Company (manger for
"He has a great ear for music. He really listens to it and
gets into it. The great thing is when he hears a record he
thinks is right, he's going to play it. He always gives new
acts a shot. He'll always listen. He's very knowledgeable
about our business, both on the radio and music side."
Calhoun, a bachelor,
bought a new home in Lyndon four years ago. This sign of stability
did not necessarily indicate a change in lifestyle, however. When
his second engagement was broken five years ago, that may have
ended any chance of marriage.
"I've dated people, and I'm seeing someone right now," he says.
"I've been single for such a long time that I'm at the age where
starting a family doesn't really interest me. I don't want to be
65 years old on a walker, going down to my son or daughter's high
His philosophy on marriage sounds like the lyrics to another song.
"I haven't felt the need to get married for the simple sake of
getting married because most of the people who married for the
simple sake of getting married are divorced now."
Courier-Journal TV-Radio Column - November 2004
lands induction into hall of fame, new contract
The Coyote is howling — and with
Last week, Coyote Calhoun, the WAMZ program director and the
most-listened-to afternoon drive-time radio personality, got a phone
call from country music star Toby Keith.
"I was on the air, and I thought he wanted to talk about something
else and I put him on the air, and that's when he informed me I had
been elected to the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame."
It more than made his day. "It's the biggest thing that's ever
happened to me in my professional career. Who would have ever
thought when I came here 25 years ago that I would have been going
to the Country Music Hall of Fame."
Things got sweeter when Calhoun also signed a new three-year
"So it looks like I'm going to be here for at least 28 years. Not a
bad career move." He will be inducted into the disc jockey category
of the Hall of Fame on March 1 in Nashville.
Billboard Article - January 2005
Coyote Calhoun has achieved what most
entertainers only hope to accomplish: single-name celebrity status.
Like Dolly and Reba and Garth, when you say "Coyote" to almost
anyone in country circles, they know who you're talking about.
Calhoun has spent nearly 25 years as
PD/afternoon driver at WAMZ Louisville, Ky., one of America's most
consistently successful radio stations, country or otherwise. He has
been honored with enough awards to fill anyone's den -- save maybe
He wears custom-tailored jackets by
clothier-to-the-stars Manuel. He counts country celebs among his
friends, and, in Louisville, chefs create new dishes just to
surprise him. His late-night escapades are the stuff of legend. He
even has a local nightspot named for him.
In short, it's good to be Coyote.
But it's his forthcoming induction
into the Country Music DJ Hall of Fame that he calls the greatest
moment in his 25 years in country radio and his 36 years in the
His story begins, like those of
Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks, in Oklahoma, where his late father,
a 55-year radio veteran, worked at a number of stations.
You could say that radio is in
Calhoun's blood. "I really never thought of doing anything else," he
says. "When I was 10 or 11, I thought, 'I'm going to be a disc
jockey one of these days,' and that was it. This is the only job I
really ever had in my whole life."
Calhoun started out working for his
father while he was in high school. "I answered the phones for the
guys on the air," he says. He also pulled the records that the jocks
would play. "I still remember the music room and the smell of
Calhoun eventually got his break
and started working on-air, first at country KRBB in tiny Sallisaw,
Okla., and eventually at top 40 in the bigger market of Muskogee,
It was as a top 40 jock that
Calhoun achieved early success, moving to Wichita, Kan.;
Chattanooga, Tenn.; back to Wichita; then to WKGN Knoxville, Tenn.,
where he did nights.
While in Knoxville, he caught the
attention of WAKY Louisville PD Johnny Randolph. "I was at a station
that was 1,000 watts [during the] daytime and 250 watts at night,"
Calhoun says. "Everything had to fall perfectly for this to happen,
but I beat WNOX -- which had 10,000 watts at night -- in teens,
which was [the demo] I was going after. It got my name out there,
and there were people out there looking at me."
Calhoun took a job at WAKY for more
than double his salary at the time. "Randolph gave me a job [that
paid] $300 a week," he says. "This was in 1973. That was a
no-brainer. I mean, $300 a week! What am I going to do with all this
excess money? I can eat at least once a day now, and maybe I'll go
out and splurge and buy a winter coat!"
With that move, Calhoun's love
affair with Louisville began.
He stayed at WAKY for 5 1/2 years,
until, little by little, the station management turned over. By
February 1979, Calhoun, who was assistant PD, could see the writing
on the wall. "I called the PD, who had just gotten axed [and asked
him] 'Do you think I'm next?'" Calhoun recalls. "He said, 'They're
already looking for your replacement.' I got blown out in March."
Calhoun took a job at top 40 KULF,
Houston, where he spent about a year, but Louisville was calling him
A relatively newfound love of
country music also figured into the story. "I came home one night in
1974 and saw Waylon Jennings on 'Midnight Special,'" Calhoun says.
"Back then, Waylon looked pretty cool. He had that long hair, and he
looked like a rock musician. I thought, 'That music is better than I
His tastes turned to Willie Nelson,
Jerry Jeff Walker and Merle Haggard, while the music that he played
at work was changing. "I started to think that I don't want to do
[top 40 anymore]," he says. "I'm not liking the music right now. It
was right in the middle of the disco craze, which I hated."
Aware that the Bingham family had
flipped WAMZ from classical to country two years earlier, he
contacted GM Bill Campbell. After a series of talks, Calhoun became
the PD and afternoon jock at what had been a fully automated
On his first day back in
Louisville, he immediately saw that something was amiss. "I noticed
that the reels had not been changed in three months," he says. "It
was a union shop, so I couldn't get anything done. I'd say, 'Can I
change these?' And they would say, 'If you change those reels we'll
write you up.'"
For a moment, Calhoun wondered what
he had gotten himself into. "I said, 'Oh, God, this is nuts. Now
I've got a bunch of lazy engineers, and besides that...I don't know
what I'm doing.' You talk about on-the-job training. I'd never been
a PD before, and I came real cheap. I took a $10,000 cut in pay to
come there, but I thought, 'This will be worth it in the long run.'"
As it turned out, it was.
"Twenty-five years later, it's like, 'This is where you're supposed
to be, and you did pretty damn good,'" Calhoun says.
WAMZ has had consistent success
since the early days. At least part of that is due to the stable
population of the Louisville area, according to Calhoun. "Louisville
is not really what you call a 'mobile' city," he says. "A lot of
people who grew up here, live here. I think you're able to maintain
a certain amount of loyalty with people who have listened to you for
years and feel very comfortable with their hometown radio station.
You're part of their family."
Calhoun is being modest. The
ratings that WAMZ has maintained through the years do not happen by
chance. According to Regent Communications VP of programming Bob
Moody, Calhoun deserves more recognition for his programming skills.
"He's not just a good programmer,
he's a great programmer, although he seldom gets the credit he
deserves in that area," says Moody, who has known Calhoun since
1976. "Coyote is such a colorful, extravagant character that people
tend to overlook how shrewd he has been.
"Even in the very early days of
WAMZ, when he was the only 'live' jock," Moody continues, "he would
take the automation tapes, edit out songs he didn't think fit the
market and insert music that suited Louisville -- including some
regional artists. I've always wondered what the automation service
thought when they got the reels back, or if they even noticed."
Moody says the hiring decisions
Calhoun has made, and his understanding of effective marketing and
promotions, are also part of his success. Even more important, Moody
says, is that "he loves country music and has a great ear for the
type of songs that will be popular in Louisville."
According to another friend,
consultant Larry Daniels, "He has created a unique radio station, a
brand that is an everyday part of listeners' lives. He understands
the listeners and reflects their values throughout WAMZ, 24 hours a
One of the biggest changes over the
years, Calhoun says, is the effect of consolidation on the
competitive landscape. "It used to be that you hated your
competitors," he says. "Now, we have a cluster of stations and the
stations all try to work together."
Calhoun has adapted. "You need to
realize that everybody's going to listen to other radio stations,"
he says. "If they're not going to listen to my radio station,
hopefully they'll listen to one of the other stations in our
But it's Calhoun's air work that is
ostensibly the reason for his induction into the Country Music DJ
Hall of Fame. He says it took time to transition from being a top 40
jock to the award-winning personality he has become.
"As I've progressed through the
years," he says, "I've realized the [importance of the] art of
communication with your audience. When I started in country, I did
some of the things like I did in top 40. Telling jokes, etc."
Calhoun says he realized that
listeners responded best when he talked about the artists and their
music. "You can actually be the liaison between them and the
artist," he says of country fans. "Our listeners really appreciate
someone who sounds like they have a connection to a lot of
"[Coyote's] demeanor is aimed right
at the listeners; [he] doesn't talk over their heads," Daniels says.
"Few talented programmers also have that great on-air ability, but
Moody says there are several
reasons why Calhoun succeeds as a jock and as a programmer. "First,
while every on-air PD I know -- myself included -- has complained
about doing an airshift at one time or another, Coyote would never
consider taking himself off the air," Moody says. "To begin with, he
would then need to replace his best-known and most popular jock."
Moody says being on-air keeps
Calhoun in touch with the listeners. "Answering the phone, doing
remotes and making personal appearances all give him invaluable
feedback from the man on the street. He's also the master of local
content. His audience knows that he's not just a voice from another
According to Moody, Calhoun is also
a "true showman," on the air and off. "Over the years he has
invested thousands of dollars -- maybe tens of thousands by now --
in stage clothes. When he shows up somewhere, he looks like a
When Calhoun talks about "sounding"
like he has a connection with country stars, he's downplaying his
relationships. He knows many performers on a personal basis.
Toby Keith, who is well on his way
to single-name status himself, is one of his buddies. "The reason
Toby and I are friends," Calhoun says, "more than anything else is
he's from Oklahoma, I'm from Oklahoma and we're both huge Oklahoma
Sooner football fans."
When Keith and Calhoun watched a
recent game together, they never talked about music. "We talked
about the football game and the football players," Calhoun says.
His success results in large part
from his commitment to the Louisville area. He has stayed in the
market despite repeated offers to relocate. "I really like it here,"
he says. "They have always paid me well. I've got a lot of friends.
I've been here 30 years, outside of that one year in Houston.
"You see guys that jump from job to
job and they never get ahead," he continues. "There were all these
PDs that got off the air back in the '90s. That was my ace in the
hole. Not only do you have a PD here, you've got an afternoon drive
guy. [WAMZ is] getting a bargain."
Amazingly, in his nearly 25 years
at WAMZ, there have been only two owners: the Bingham family and
Clear Channel Communications. The Binghams owned local newspapers,
TV stations and radio outlets WHAS and WAMZ. They sold the radio
stations to Clear Channel in 1986.
Calhoun says his upcoming Hall of
Fame honor is special because it represents a life's work. "This
wasn't attained in a year," he says. "I attained this over a 25-year
career in country. The thing about it is, not only do you have to be
a success in what you've been doing, but you also have to be
perceived to be a pretty nice guy, a fun guy, someone that people
like being with.
"I can't stress enough that one of
the keys to having any kind of success in your career is to master
the art of getting along with people."
Calhoun is thankful for his
father's role in his early radio jobs. "The roughest job to get is
your first one, and I didn't have any experience," he says.
His father passed away in May 2004,
but was alive for his son's induction into the Kentucky Music Hall
of Fame in February. That his father knew about his induction was
gratifying to Calhoun. "He was aware and very proud that I was
elected," he says. As for this latest induction, Calhoun says his
father "will have to see this one from radio heaven."
Calhoun is, understandably,
appreciative of the honor. "You never think that you're going to go
to the Hall of Fame," he says. "I'm very fortunate for all the
people I've met in the industry -- all phases of it -- and for what
a wonderful life I've had."
Lest you think the story ends
there, it doesn't. Calhoun recently signed a new, three-year deal
with Clear Channel. "I've been successful," he says. "So as long as
I'm at the top of my game, why leave?"
-- Ken Tucker,
Billboard Article Sidebar - January 2005
When the call goes out for Coyote
Calhoun stories, inevitably the response is, "Stories that you can
According to Regent
Communications VP of programming Bob Moody, a longtime friend of
Calhoun, "The 17 best Coyote stories cannot be repeated in public. I
know, because I was there for 15 of them."
Consultant and friend Larry Daniels
is equally vague. "Well, one time at Country Radio Seminar,
Coyote...uh, hmm, can't tell that one," he says. "Oh, when he was
here in Phoenix for spring training, he...uh, no, can't tell that
You get the picture.
What can be told generally revolves
around Calhoun's loves: country music and sports (particularly
University of Oklahoma football).
We'll start with a story from Moody
about Calhoun's days at top 40 WAKY Louisville, Ky.
"Most people remember when Andy
Kaufman was beaten up on the Letterman show by wrestler Jerry ‘the
King' Lawler in 1982," Moody says. "Three or four years earlier,
though, Lawler had stomped Coyote Calhoun at Louisville Gardens in a
match that was inspired by Calhoun telling me, ‘I'd break a leg for
a good Arbitron book!'"
According to Moody, Calhoun was
"goaded" into a match with the reigning Southern heavyweight
"Coyote thought it was a big joke
and was having a lot of fun with it -- calling Lawler at home and
taunting him in public," Moody says. "He failed to take into account
that this was how Lawler made a living. He couldn't let a skinny
disk jockey make him look bad.
"The evening ended with Lawler
lifting Coyote over his head and power-slamming him into the mat in
front of a sold-out arena," Moody recalls. "I was providing
play-by-play coverage from ringside on WAKY and thought for a minute
that he was dead."
There was a happy ending -- sort
of. "Coyote was helped to his feet, and -- as he never fails to
point out -- went on to have one of the worst rating books in his
career," Moody concludes.
One Coyote story from Mercury
Records Nashville VP of promotion John Ettinger also involves the
ring. At a dinner meeting with Calhoun, then-Mercury artist Neal
Coty mentioned that he was a big boxing fan.
"Coyote asked, ‘Have you ever seen
the Ron Lyle/Ken Norton heavyweight fight from 1975?'" Ettinger
recalls. When Coty said he had never seen it, Calhoun took the party
to his house.
"He pours three giant glasses of
Tennessee whiskey," Ettinger says, "and throws in a VHS of the
"What a fight," he continues.
"These guys knocked each other down about three times each. It went
to about the 10th round and I don't remember who won, because I was
Ettinger also has a more lucid
story about Calhoun. "I once bet him $100 that Oklahoma would lose
in football," he says. "The Sooners lost, but there was no way I was
calling him to gloat about it. About three weeks later, a check for
$100 arrived in my mailbox. We have never spoken about the bet or
the money since. The uncashed check, which carries the name ‘Coyote
Calhoun,' is in my scrapbook at home."
DreamWorks Records Nashville VP of
field promotions George Briner shares another football story. "Just
recently, Coyote caught up with Toby Keith on his bus to watch an
Oklahoma University football game. At one point, running back Adrian
Peterson took off running for a touchdown. Simultaneously, both
Coyote and Toby jumped up and started running in place, simulating
"To see two grown men get that
excited over a football game is beyond me," Briner continues, "but
then again, their football team is going to the [national
Columbia Records Nashville Midwest
regional Tom Moran says Calhoun has graced many a restaurant in his
years in Louisville. "He is so well-known in the restaurant
community that he never looks at a menu," Moran says. "The chefs all
come up with something special to surprise him and his guests when
he comes in.
"He's the only guy I know that has
Manuel custom-make him jackets to match his Corvette," Moran adds.
Speaking of clothes, Moody has
another Calhoun story. "Years ago he had a hot date that he wanted
to impress, so he talked Marty Stuart into loaning him a jacket that
Coyote especially admired. The next day he had it pressed and dry
cleaned and shipped back to Nashville. That's style!"
-- Ken Tucker,
Terry Meiners Pie Hole Article - February 24, 2005
A Coyote That
Howls With Laughter
Coyote Calhoun Enters Country
Music DJ Hall of Fame
Louisville, Ky. --- The best known
celebrities in any metro area can be referenced by just one name.
Around here people respond positively to stars called Ali, Fuzzy,
Jer, Tubby, Griff, Heather, and Coyote.
Coyote Calhoun, some in radio call him "Hoon," will pick up more
national notoriety next week when he's inducted into the Country
Music DJ Hall of Fame in Nashville.
"I'm thrilled, it's a great honor," Calhoun, 52, said from his Clear
Channel studio this week. "I hung around my dad's station when I was
a kid, got my first deejay job at 16, and it's all I've ever known
my whole life."
Even though his dad owned a top forty radio station in Muskogee,
Oklahoma, Coyote drove 40 miles a day after school to play country
music on KRBB in Sallisaw "until I was seasoned enough to get to a
Developing a high-energy delivery with rapid fire jokes and taped
laughs and boos, the young deejay thrilled teenage listeners. He
used several different disc jockey names during his years spinning
tunes on stations in Muskogee, Tulsa, Wichita (twice), Chattanooga,
And he'd throw in some silly lines over the song intros. "Do you
believe in heredity? I don't. My dad has a wooden leg and I don't."
"The gay liberation movement was planning a convention here in
town…they heard there may be purse snatchers in the area so that
kind of curtailed things."
Commenting on seeing a recent Osmond Brothers concert in an open
stadium in Atlanta, Calhoun noted that "a really freaky thing
happened. A crop duster flew by and sprayed the audience with
But he used sound effects and a screaming cadence that was
infectious to a teenage audience that couldn't get enough of his
high powered antics.
Coyote Calhoun and Country singer
Johnny Randolph, the program
director of legendary top forty station WAKY in Louisville heard
about the howling madman of nighttime radio and wanted a sample. He
paid a Knoxville engineer $50 to hold the phone up to a radio
speaker so Randolph could secretly audition the young deejay.
Randolph hired him right away with the understanding that
Knoxville's "Jack Diamond" would now be called Coyote Calhoun. And
he'd use a long coyote howl on the radio as a contest giveaway
And the persona stuck. He loved it so much that he had his birth
name legally changed to Coyote Calhoun over a decade ago.
Calhoun screamed and partied his way through 5 and a half wild years
at WAKY before local FM rockers like WLRS and WQHI started eroding
AM radio's audience share. Then in 1979, Coyote bolted to a top
forty station in Houston but soon pined for the Louisville
Within a year he was back in Louisville after hearing that the
Bingham family had changed its all-news format on WNUS-FM to an
automated country format. Calhoun quickly convinced managers to hire
him as the station's first live deejay and program director on the
The station marketed him with t-shirts that said WAMZ on the front
and "Coyote's back" on the rear.
Soon thereafter he hired Karl Shannon, Dickie Braun, and Bobby Jack
Murphy as deejays and the station has been a dominant force ever
since. Many country challengers have come along and many have
failed. Country is king and WAMZ's crown has never been seriously
For a nomadic deejay, the true sign of success is home ownership.
Calhoun purchased his first and only home in 1993, thirteen years
after he returned to Louisville. "I knew I wanted this town to be my
home forever," he said. "And after refinancing, my house payment is
only $450. That's a lot cheaper than renting."
Calhoun has won the prestigious National Association of Broadcasters
Marconi Award twice, an Academy of County Music Air Personality of
the Year Award, a Country Music Association Air Personality of the
Year Award, and a slew of awards from Billboard Magazine, Radio &
Records, and the Gavin Report, all industry publications.
And yet, with all the fame and national recognition that our Coyote
Calhoun has received during his 25 glorious years at the top of
Louisville radio, at least one person out there is still a bit murky
on his exact identity.
Just as thousands of aspiring musicians have done before, a country
singer from California sent her demo to WAMZ in hopes of catching
the eye of the one man who has the power to get it played on the
It was addressed to Cootie Cowhand.
We know who you mean, ma'am. In this town of single-name stars, a
simple Cootie will do.
Thanks to former
Terry Meiners for his permission to post this article.
WHAS-TV Story - February 18, 2005
Can an old Coyote
learn new tricks?
By Gary Rodemier,
At WAMZ, he faces three computer
screens, a microphone, and a tight play list of 35 country songs.
Records are a thing of the past, but in Coyote's lingo, new songs
still get 150 spins, enough time to research the audience. He
chooses the songs, but even Coyote takes a back seat to the music.
"For the most part, back in the old days though, you talked after
every record," he recalls. "You'd cue records up, find records, play
commercials, so a four-hour shift back then was a lot different than
a four-hour shift right now."
But those four hours everyday have made Coyote Calhoun the heartbeat
of country music in Louisville. He is going to the hall of fame, but
his home in Lyndon is already a trophy house from decades of honors.
The call from the hall was delivered by country music star Toby
Keith in the first year that Coyote was eligible.
Coyote Calhoun on the air at WAMZ
"So what makes this such a big
honor for me, is this is a reflection of what I've done throughout
my whole career," says Calhoun. "I mean, I didn't' attain this honor
in a year or two, it took 25 years."
Not bad for a kid from Oklahoma who was born into the business. His
dad worked in radio for 55 years.
"I got into radio myself when I was around 18, I finally got a job
on the air and I got a job at KRBB in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, the home
of Pretty Boy Floyd."
That started a litany of small town radio stations where Coyote
built a career in Top 40 radio, and it led to a 250-watt station in
"The people across the street, my Top 40 competitor, had 10,000
watts. I beat him, so all of a sudden people are going, ‘how could
he beat a station that has 10,000 watts? The guy across the street
must be really bad.'"
Suddenly the young DJ was in demand, and that brought a fateful call
from WAKY Radio in Louisville. The job was supposed to lead to a
"This was gonna be just a stop off for me," says Calhoun. "Now
what's ironic was, I finally made it to Houston after I got fired
Coyote says it was no disgrace. In those days, everybody got fired
from WAKY. And after his last Top 40 job in Houston, and a
conversion to country music, he came back to Louisville in 1980 for
"Twenty-five years as of February 4. It's amazing… It surprises the
heck out of me," he says.
He makes the leap on March 1, when Coyote will join his Nashville
friends for the induction ceremony. He is well known and well liked
in the music industry because he understands what works in that
"So I try to go to the office everyday and I try to be as nice to
people as I can be. Treat people fairly and, you know, try to be an
asset to my industry," he says.
It is an industry he loves. You might say he's married to country
music, because he's never been married to anyone else.
"Actually, there's been a couple of engagements, but it ended
because they either didn't like me or I didn't like them, I don't
want to get into the cold hard facts of life right now."
He may be the city's most eligible but unavailable bachelor. And at
52, he's in his radio prime, knowing that his dad, who passed away
last year, would be proud.
"And he'll have to watch this one, I guess, from radio heaven, but
you know what? He's up there and he's real proud, and I think that
the reason he was so proud of me, was I actually got into the same
profession that he went into and I made a success out of myself."
It's a family tradition. The times, the music, the technology have
changed, but Coyote is still howling, after all these years.
And "Coyote Calhoun" is his real name. He says he had it officially
changed 15 years ago.
Courier-Journal Story - March 1, 2005
Foxy Coyote knew
country would fly here
By Bob Hill
Sometime this evening,
Coyote Calhoun -- whose life's resume, taken in chronological order,
would go Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma (very
briefly), Kansas, Alabama, the U.S. Marine Corps, Kansas,
Louisville, Texas and Louisville -- will be inducted into the
Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Of the thousands of disc jockeys who have traveled that long, dusty,
have-I-been-fired-yet country-radio road, from Bob Wills and the
original Hank Williams to Toby Keith and Gretchen Wilson, only about
80 have been chosen by a panel of peers for the hall -- and Calhoun
is the first-ever unanimous selection.
And if you think the name Coyote a bit odd, he'll join Ramblin' Lou
Shriver, Rhubarb Jones, Jaybird Drennan, Cousin Ray Woolfenden and
Gwyneth "Dandelion" Seese -- whose radio career got launched driving
a UPS truck using "Dandelion" as her CB handle.
Calhoun recently was discussing that -- and a few dozen other things
-- at the computerized, modern-control-booth-world of WAMZ-FM, where
he has worked for 25 years.
WAMZ-FM's Coyote Calhoun loves
baseball and Oklahoma football,
runs up to seven miles a day and enjoys biographies.
A baseball and
Oklahoma football addict, Calhoun is a guy who stays up with the
news, reads a lot of biography and history, and jogs five to seven
miles a day. He does not do "boring" well -- and thus recently
completed his first and last seven-day cruise-ship vacation.
At work he stands while announcing, hands clasped in an unconscious
gesture of sincerity as he goes one-on-one with thousands of
listeners, his distinctive, nasal Texas-Oklahoma twang with a
Midwest overlay flying off to wherever 100,000 watts can take it.
It was that 100,000 watts that brought him back to Louisville in
1980 -- where he'd previously done time with a fellow contingent of
radio lunatics at WAKY, an AM station.
Those 100,000 watts were being spectacularly underused -- and
underappreciated -- as a classical music station in the Bingham
family media empire, and then as an all-news station. Calhoun --
then working at a Houston rock station and hating every Donna Summer
moment of it -- kept hearing 100,000 watts of country in his head.
This was a guy whose first radio job had lasted three months and who
was fired from another job by the station owner -- his father. But
Calhoun had grown up in radio; he knew country would work here.
It took a little persuading -- "Country music isn't my bag, but my
two bags had already exploded," Barry Bingham Jr. said at the time
-- but Calhoun took a pay cut to come back, bringing Willie Nelson
and Waylon Jennings.
Within a year -- once the station hired live disc jockeys -- station
manager Coyote Calhoun had WAMZ banging on the top-rated door.
His secret to success -- along with timing and 100,000 watts -- is
that he listens; his time on the air is less valuable than the time
spent listening to WAMZ as he jogs. He stays in tune with the music,
the presentation, his staff, his friends, his sense of place and his
industry: "I just try to treat people nice."
He lived low-key large, ran with the Louisville nightlife, became
friends with Toby Keith and George Strait, et al. -- and has settled
down a lot. Many nights now, he'll just slip into the Corner Cafe in
Lyndon for a meal. Somebody asked him recently when he was going to
retire and enjoy life.
"Hey," Calhoun answered, "what do you think I'm doing?"