Day celebrates 20 years on the air at KIX 101.1

T-R PHOTO BY ROBERT MAHARRY — Longtime KIX 101.1 midday host Doris Day, pictured, recently celebrated 20 years on the air with the station. Both Day and KFJB News Talk Host Kyle Martin have now hit the two decade milestone with the station.

Kyle Martin and Doris Day both joined the KIX 101/1230 KFJB radio family within a week of each other back in 2004, and as they celebrated their respective 20-year anniversaries recently, the people who hired them so long ago have to feel like they made the right decision.

Day, a native of Fountain City, Wis. who now hosts the midday country music show for KIX, has bucked the trend of the nomadic radio host in her own career. Marshalltown is her third and likely final stop, and before she came here, she spent nearly 20 years with WAXX 104.5 in Eau Claire, Wis. Her first job was in Winona, Minn., where she attended college just across the Mississippi River from Fountain City, at a station that played everything from polka to rock n’ roll.

“I’d always loved radio. It was something that was in my blood,” she said.

Even in the early 1980s, however, there were few female radio hosts, so Day looked up to Kim Jeffries, who made a name for herself at KS95 and WCCO Radio in the Twin Cities. A chance encounter with a WAXX shareholder who happened to be in the Fountain City area duck hunting led her to the station in Eau Claire, where Day spent almost 20 years.

A corporate buyout and subsequent layoffs at WAXX left Day looking for a new job — she had been offered a chance to stay, but only on a part-time basis — so she started exploring other options and ended up interviewing for the position Martin got with 1230 KFJB. While she initially lost out on that opportunity, she got a call back from the station’s manager at the time that they wanted her to do a midday show on the FM station, KIX 101.1.

“That was something I always wanted to do because up at WAXX for almost 20 years, I was doing overnights, overnights and evenings. That was about it, so this was my dream job,” she said. “And my family’s like ‘Move! Go! Go! Go!’ So here we are.”

Although the unfamiliar territory of Iowa may have given her slight pause about moving, Day quickly grew to love her job and fully intends to retire here now that she’s made it 20 years. One of her favorite perks is meeting some of the biggest stars in country music, and to this day, none sticks out more than an encounter with the legendary Reba McEntire, which shocked Day’s daughter.

“(Reba) was just awesome, just fantastic,” Day said.

She can also recall meeting a young Garth Brooks before he became the biggest country star in the world, Rascal Flatts and Thompson Square among others. Over her nearly four decades in country radio, Day has witnessed a massive transformation in the genre itself.

“It’s interesting to see. I’ve always said country has a huge umbrella. You’ve got your bluegrass on one side and your pop country on the other, and it’s all under one umbrella. I think that’s different than pop music or any other genre of music,” she said. “It just envelopes so much. It’s really changing a lot. I’m just learning this, and as a matter of fact, there’s a song that we’re gonna be adding probably tomorrow or the next day that right now is number one on Pandora (radio) already.”

The way people consume music has also changed dramatically with the rise of streaming services like Spotify, iTunes, Pandora and others, but Day is still a traditionalist when it comes to hearing a great song for the first time on an old-fashioned AM/FM radio. Her “New Dish at Noon” segment is popular with listeners, and she said the song she heard for the first time that blew her away the most is “Ain’t the Whiskey” by Cody Jinks, a prime example of an independent artist who built a massive following outside of the traditional spheres of the industry.

“I got a chance to see him in concert, and his concert’s unbelievable. His fanbase is huge,” she said.

She’s also thankful to have worked for independent, locally owned outlets like KIX and WAXX, and one of the men responsible for helping her get a job at WAXX — Bob Holtan — is now one of the owners of KIX. Todd Steinkamp, the owner/general manager of KIX 101, KFJB and KFJB-TV, reflected on the longevity both Day and Martin have achieved.

“Finding employees in any business, let alone the media business, that are here for 20 years is almost unheard of. Both Kyle and Doris have made connections here in Marshalltown and Central Iowa where they are literally like family to many of our listeners,” Steinkamp said. “That is a great feeling and sense of pride for our stations and personally for me as an owner!”

And while she probably won’t make it another 20 years at the station — she’d like to retire someday — Day is grateful she’s found a home in Marshalltown at a place where she still loves to work.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I’ve said that before and I mention it to everybody because it’s just my home. It’s my home now, (and) I’m happy to be here,” she said.


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