SATURDAY SPECIAL: Tiny Hughes made WROZ Evansville's country home in the '70s and '80s

A 1978 cartoon of Tiny Hughes by noted cartoonist Tom Armstrong
In the 1970s and early 1980s, one country radio station in the Tri-State stood head and shoulders above the rest, and it, in turn, stood upon the shoulders of a large man with a heart of gold.

You may not remember his full name, William T. Hughes, but that's all right.  He preferred to be known by his nickname:  Tiny.

Tiny was born and raised in Owensboro, and it was there he got his start in radio at WVJS (1420 AM) in 1955, but it was his stint at WROZ (1400 AM), which lasted from 1974 until his death, that brought him recognition to match his outsized body.

He had a special gift, and young and old alike tuned in each morning just to hear what Tiny would be talking about and which records he'd be spinning.  It didn't hurt that he bridged the gap between the earlier country music and that which we hear today.  He hit WROZ at the time when country's move from its roots in the "hills and hollers" to the more modern sound we know today was at its zenith.

Tiny's faith in the format made the transition easier to swallow for a lot of older listeners who'd grown up on Roy Acuff and the pioneers of country.  Through Tiny, they came to accept "outlaws" like Merle Haggard, whose edgier sound hewed closer to pop music than anything Acuff ever recorded.

And the country music fraternity counted Tiny as a brother:  The Country Music Association named him their medium market "DJ of the Year" in 1977.  His friends included some of the best and brighest in the business.

Most listeners didn't care whether or not he won awards, though; they just loved Tiny for who he was.  And if the truth is to be told, Tiny made it easy to like him.  He could relate to just about everyone, from politicians to drunks on the street.  Among sport fishermen and hunters, he was popular because he loved to fish, and he loved to hunt, and he was damned good at both.

The stories told to this day of Tiny are many, but I won't go into any of those because if I started on one, this would go on for days.

And sadly, Tiny isn't with us any longer to create more of them.

After suffering his first heart attack at just 25 years of age, and a second one in the late 1970s, a third one claimed his life while he was driving along Second Street in Evansville on May 19, 1986.  His van crashed into Rowe's Import Shop, and while immediate aid was rendered, there was nothing that could be done.

Tiny Hughes was dead at 45, and a gentle giant among men was no more.

Within a few years, without Tiny's voice to keep it alive, WROZ would also be gone, first becoming a simulcast of WIKY (104.1 FM), then eventually picking up the historic WJPS call letters for a few years.  Now, of course, 1400 has its original call letters back, WEOA, and broadcasts an urban music format, and while there's certainly nothing wrong with that, it's just not the same.

But then, what is?

Comments

Sam said…
Tiny was Evansville's first (and truthfully ONLY) radio icon. As a teenager, I never listened to country music or country radio. Yet, I knew who Tiny was. His ability to communicate with his audience was unlike any other radio personality. I had the enormous pleasure of playing with Tiny and Marcia Yockey, in an Aces vs. media basketball event. He was a scream. Tiny got off the bench, took the ball, bounced it a couple of times, handed it back to the ref, and then said, "Substitute!" and then sat back down. He could do that. He was Tiny Hughes.
Steve-O said…
I remember listening to Tiny in early '83, before I shipped-off to boot camp; he was doing the live reports from the "Hiney Winery, in beautiful downtown Darmstadt".
Don Magee said…
I worked with Tiny Hughes back in the early 80's. He was a very unique and special individual... I was saddened to hear of his passing not too long after I had left Evansville. There shall never be another "Tiny" Hughes. Its nice to know that he is remembered fondly.

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