In one way, Herb Day’s career has come back to familiar territory, while in another way it is branching out into unchartered waters.
After 25 years – interspersed with various detours – Day is leaving Hillsboro’s Buckeye Country/WSRW radio station this week after a career there that began back in 1975. The longtime on-air personality, program director and salesman is going into business for himself as a commercial voiceover artist and producer, working from a newly-created home studio.
“We spent the past year planning for this,” says Day, referring to his wife, Patty, who also works from home as a nurse practitioner handling GE Aviation disability issues for plants that do not have onsite practitioners.
The Days recently relocated from a family farm south of Hillsboro to a home just north of town, where Day has installed a state-of-the-art studio that will allow him to produce voiceovers for clients across the country, thanks to the Internet and digital technology.
Even though he’s just getting started, Day has already begun a client list, including a KFC in Hawaii in a town “I can’t even pronounce.”
Day stepped away from his on-air duties at Buckeye Country more than a year ago and has focused strictly on sales for the station.
“But my love of this business, and why I got into it, is the on-air aspect,” says Day, prompting him to set the stage for a full-time career lending his distinctive voice to commercials, training films, political ads or any other presentation requiring professional narration or description. His studio provides sound effects and other bells and whistles associated with professional audio work, and he is also a master of character voices, unrecognizable from his own.
While Day first worked at WSRW in 1975 hosting “The Country Club” each night from 6-11 p.m. – when the station boasted a powerful 50,000 watt FM signal along with its AM sister – his first job in radio came while he was still a student at Whiteoak High School and Southern Hills JVS.
Day had been beating the bushes for an opportunity in radio, and by chance drove by WCNE, a school station at Clermont Northeastern High School. Even though the station was supposed to use only students at that school, the general manager was impressed enough with Day’s voice and his gumption to give him a shot.
He worked there from September 1974 until he graduated the following May, and then went to work for a brief stint at WCHO in Washington Court House before finally getting an offer at what he considered his hometown station, WSRW, which he had grown up listening to via on-air personalities like Bob Hodson, Chet Irwin and Willard Parr.
“Willard threw me out three or four times,” recalls Day. But finally, Parr took a chance on the persistent teen-ager, and Day spent the next three years playing country hits, taking requests and developing his on-air persona.
Day then jumped to the country giant WUBE, known as “B105,” in Cincinnati from 1978-80, but returned to WSRW in 1980 as program director. For the next nine years, he became a mainstay of local radio.
But he had always wanted to own his own station, and when the opportunity arose to acquire a small AM station in Kentucky, he jumped at it. He relocated to Hodgenville, Ky., and took the reins at WXAM, where he got a crash course in all the joys and headaches of owning, operating, staffing, meeting payrolls and managing sales for his own station.
“I learned a lot,” says Day. He sold the station in 1991 and returned to Ohio, working as assistant general manager for the Miami University station in Oxford, WMUB, then moving on to Cincinnati country station WYGY 96.5 and its sister station, 1160 BOB. He also sold cars and furniture, and did a stint as sales manager at WAXZ and WAOL in Georgetown.
In 2003, Day returned to WSRW, doing both sales and on-air duties, and worked at WCHO again in Court House. Longtime station owner Tom Archibald had sold WSRW to Clear Channel Communications in 1999, and the corporation decided to move the 50,000 watt FM signal to Columbus to maximize its earning potential.
WSRW AM 1590 and WCHO FM 105.5 were consolidated, with CHO becoming Buckeye Country. Clear Channel eventually became IHeartRadio. Another signal, 101.5 FM, also joined the mix and plays classic 70s and 80s rock.
Despite changes that represent significant departures from years past, Day has nothing but fond memories and positive comments about the station that he always thought of as home, wherever he worked. Day says his boss at WSRW, John Barney, “is a great friend, a great guy and a great sales manager. He’s been a wonderful guy to work for.”
His former WSRW cohorts from over the years will always be special to him, says Day, including Archibald, Hodson, Irwin, Leslie Ramsey, Pat Hays, Bud Storer, Ernie Blankenship, Ed Frydryk, Carl Ayres, Paul Levo, and many more who came through the station’s doors.
Along with his career in radio, Day is a longtime songwriter and performer. He and his wife are heavily involved in their church, Southside Praise and Worship on SR 247, and gospel music has become his focus in recent years.
He says that after years of not being motivated to write music, he has recently experienced a flood of inspiration to pen gospel songs, and he’s preparing to record a new CD in a few weeks.
“God has blessed me,” he says.
In addition to his new voiceover venture, Day will also be spending one day a week, Tuesdays 8 a.m. to noon, hosting a country music show on WOBO, 88.7, a public broadcasting station in Clermont County which previously was WCNE – the station that gave Day his start. The name of the show? “The Country Club,” the same name he used for his show during his first stint at WSRW.
“I’ve come full circle,” he says.