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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 airchecks here.)

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

Wily Coyote Calhoun
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
The Courier-Journal

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 responsibility.

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 stations.

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.

Within all 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 schools."

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 situation."

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 government.

"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 the hill."

"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 horrible."

Yet Marine boot camp, the training, the regimen, did have some effect.

"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 animal.

"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 said.

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 either.

"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 already exploded."

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 particularly successful.

"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 their families."

"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 and sports.

"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 to the blue-collar-country-music-God-Fearing-America-love-it-or-leave-it line.

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 be lamenting.

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 moved.

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 restaurant.

"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 married.

"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 mink coat.

"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 evening.

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 them moved."

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 challenge."

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 radio business.

"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 his name.

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."


Family: Single

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

Residence: Sycamore Creek subdivision in Lyndon

Birthday: January 29, 1953

Hometown: Coffeyville, Kansas

Hobbies: Running

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 Association.

"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 does drink.

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 audition tape.

"He said, 'I don't need that. I know what you sound like. When can you start?' That was my job interview," Hazard says.


Coyote Calhoun
Operations manager, WAMZ-FM and WHKW-FM
Minority Owner, Coyote's Music and Dance Hall
Host, Coyote's Country Television Show

Management Philosophy

"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."

Judgement Calls

Proudest Achievement: "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 big honor."

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.

True Confessions

  • 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 Buffett.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in California. "It's far away, and I feel like I'm going someplace."

Here's What They Said

David Haley, senior director of nation promotion, MCA/Nashville Records:

"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 Communications:

"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 George Strait):

"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 school graduation."

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

Coyote Calhoun lands induction into hall of fame, new contract
By Tom Dorsey
The Courier-Journal

The Coyote is howling — and with good reason.

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 contract.

"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.

Coyote Calhoun

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 Elvis'.

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 business overall.

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 vinyl."

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, Okla.

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 back.

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 thought.'"

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 station.

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 day."

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 cluster."

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 performers."

"[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 Coyote does."

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 town."

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 country star."

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

Billboard Article Sidebar - January 2005

When the call goes out for Coyote Calhoun stories, inevitably the response is, "Stories that you can print?"

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 one either."

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 champion.

"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 fight.

"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 drunk."

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 Peterson.

"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 championship game]."

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, Billboard

Terry Meiners Pie Hole Article - February 24, 2005

A Coyote That Howls With Laughter
Coyote Calhoun Enters Country Music DJ Hall of Fame
By Terry Meiners

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 bigger station."

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 Knoxville.

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 Clearasil."

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 Kellie Coffey

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 trigger.

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 lifestyle.

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 newly-named WAMZ.

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 threatened.

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 radio.

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 WAKY intern 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, WHAS-TV

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 Knoxville, Tennessee.

"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 major market.

"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 from WAKY.

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 good.

"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 business.

"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
The Courier-Journal

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?"