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When the afternoon school bell rang at Lebanon Junior High School, 12-year-old Trent Clutts would rush to the WLBN studios to feed his fascination with the radio.
He and his parents, William and Helen Clutts, moved to Lebanon from Alabama in the early 1960s, when Clutts was in the third grade. And, by the time he was in junior high, he was spending all of his free time at WLBN, listening to Frank Kemp do the morning and afternoon country music shows.
Clutts’s father, who pastored in Junction City and Crab Orchard before pastoring at Woodlawn Baptist Church for more than 20 years, was close friends with WLBN owner J.T. Whitlock, and his sermons were broadcast on the radio every Sunday. So, Clutts would spend every moment he could at the radio station. He was consumed by it. While his 12-year-old classmates were busy being kids, Clutts was busy beginning his lifelong career on the radio.
“Radio was just my passion,” Clutts said. “I can remember watching Frank Kemp through the window, talking on the radio and I thought ‘I have got to do this.’”
Practically every day, Clutts would go hang out at the radio station and while Kemp finished paper work, he would practice being on-air. Kemp gave him pointers, and as luck would have it, one day while in chorus class at Lebanon Junior High, Clutts got a phone call from WLBN. They needed Clutts to come in and cover for Kemp who was out sick.
“I just couldn’t wait to get out there,” Clutts said.
His first solo, live on-air appearance was at 5:30 p.m., during the “Country Music Scene.” The first song he played was “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” by Wanda Jackson.
“I don’t remember what I said. But, here’s the great part,” Clutts said. “I started the album on the wrong speed. So Wanda Jackson took off like a shot… like Donald Duck.”
But, even with that minor misstep, Clutts was hooked and he never looked back.
Clutts graduated from Marion County High School in 1976, and went on to attend Campbellsville College. Before he finished his degree, Clutts was offered a job at WVLK in Lexington in 1977, and he jumped at it. It was then Clutts changed his on-air name to “Bill Cody,” which he chose because of his love for the American west.
“I've always loved the geography and history of the American west and Buffalo Bill Cody was the quintessential entertainer and international touring star of his day,” Clutts said. “I've read extensively about his life and times.”
After two years at WVLK, Clutts was offered a job at WHAS in Louisville in January of 1979.
“That was monumental,” Clutts said. “I was just 19 years old.”
Clutts stayed at WHAS until 1985, when he went to WCII in Louisville as a morning show host. Six months later, he was offered a job at WHOO in Orlando, Fla., and he worked there for almost two years until the station’s company sold it and he was without a job. However, in the spring of 1987, he went to KKYX in San Antonio, Texas, a legendary station, and he felt at home immediately.
“That’s where I came into my own,” Clutts said.
Clutts loved Texas, and decided the only way he would leave would be if he was offered a job in Nashville. Again, as luck would have it, on his birthday, Dec. 16, 1993, he got a phone call from a lady he had worked with previously in Lexington who was now working for WSM in Nashville.
“I was at work getting ready to walk out the door on my birthday when the phone rang,” Clutts said. “I grabbed the phone and she said, ‘The job you’ve always wanted is open. Mornings at WSM in Nashville.’”
He jumped on it, and he got the job. His first day on air at WSM was April 25, 1995. And the rest, as they say, is history. Clutts just recently celebrated his 19th anniversary at WSM and has been working in radio for 42 years.
“God has truly blessed me to allow me to do something I love so much,” Clutts said. “Everything that I ever dreamed and hoped for has come true since I’ve been here.”
In fact, on his very first day at WSM, he was in the presence of his hero, Charlie Daniels, who was his very first guest on the morning show. Since then, Clutts has been the host of the Coffee, Country & Cody morning show weekdays from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. CST, on 650 AM WSM and WSMOnline.com. During his time there, he’s not only been accepted by legendary country music artists, but he’s also become close friends with many of them.
“I’ve met everybody in the industry, literally,” Clutts said.
From Dolly Parton to Willie Nelson to Taylor Swift, Clutts has met and interviewed them all.
In addition to his radio show, Clutts hosts the GAC TV "Master Series" and other specialty programming. In his spare time, he has done voiceover work that includes nationally syndicated radio “Bill Cody's Classic Country Weekend,” “Willie's Roadhouse” channel on Sirius/XM, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Cracker Barrel, Mr. Coffee, Boot Barn, Purity Dairies, Bridgestone and A & E's “Biography.” For many years, he also hosted United Airlines Inflight “Country Collections” channel on United Airlines worldwide, which was also on Air Force 1 and Air Force 2.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, in 2008, Clutts was inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame, which was a huge honor.
“Sometimes the right words are hard to find to truly describe how blessed my life has been in this business,” Clutts said.
It’s hard for Clutts to fathom, sometimes, that this “hillbilly preacher’s boy” from Lebanon, Ky, has accomplished so much.
“I’ve interviewed presidents, secretaries of states, queens, actors, actresses, athletes and country music legends,” Clutts said. “I’ve had the chance to stand on some of the biggest music stages in the world.”
And, Clutts, 54, shows no signs of stopping. He wants to continue working for as long as he’s able. In fact, a dream of his is for his morning show to become a nationally syndicated show.
“I’ve always prayed for the wisdom to know when it’s time to go,” Clutts said. “Hopefully, that isn’t anytime soon because I just love what I’m doing.”
Clutts came home to Marion County, recently, to help emcee the 50th Marion County Distinguished Young Woman competition, which he emceed for 20 years.
“The community still embraces that program,” Clutts said. “It’s a source of pride for the whole county.”
Clutts has been married to his high school sweetheart, Rebecca Wheatley of Loretto, for 33 years. Their home is in rural Robertson County, Tenn., near Cross Plains, where they’ve lived for 17 years. In fact, there is a sign welcoming visitors to the “Home of Bill Cody.”
Clutts and his wife have three children – Luke, 32, Hannah, 29 and Levi, 25.