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Jay Gilbert says goodbye to radio after 48 years

DJ Jay Gilbert has been heard on Cincinnati airwaves most of the last 48 years.
Courtesy Jay Gilbert
DJ Jay Gilbert has been heard on Cincinnati airwaves most of the last 48 years.

At least Jay Gilbert could say goodbye to his longtime listeners.

Gilbert, who has spent most of the past 48 years on Cincinnati's airwaves, told listeners on his 4-8 p.m. show Friday that it's his final day on WOFX-FM (92.5).

The Marconi Award winner, while working at WEBN-FM in 2000, told me he's leaving the classic rock station after eight years by mutual agreement. The decision was made after his show Thursday.

“Changes are coming, and I decided it was time to go," he tells me. "I've been doing this for a long time."

His Cumulus bosses let him to do one last show on Friday, unlike when he was fired by WEBN-FM in 2012 after 32 years as afternoon drive host.

Gilbert has been a fixture on Cincinnati radio for nearly five decades. The Philadelphia native came to WEBN-FM as production director and midday host in 1974, and did a four-year stint. He returned to host the Sunday night Get Back show 1983-87, then went full-time as afternoon host from 1987 until he was fired in a nationwide budget cut by Clear Channel, now known as iHeartMedia.

He won the National Association of Broadcasters' prestigious Marconi Award for large-market "personality of the year" in 2000, the same year WEBN-FM was honored as the NAB's "legendary station."

One of the city's most creative minds, Gilbert has been much more than just a DJ in Cincinnati. He's written advertising jingles and songs, and created satirical bits for the Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Springer nationally syndicated radio shows. He did satirical "Uncle Jay Explains The News" commentaries for WCPO-TV until 2015. He's written Cincinnati Magazine's "Dr. Know" monthly local history column since 2014, and added a bi-monthly "Living in Cin" feature in 2017.

in 1985, Gilbert teamed up with advertising guru Jerry Galvin to create the campaign for Plummet Mall, Cincinnati's greatest radio stunt – and one of the best scams in radio history. Their radio-only campaign had the town buzzing about a new underground vertical shopping mall with spiral escalators and moving sidewalks to demonstrate the impact of radio.

"The best value in town is a hole in the ground!" said the advertisements secretly funded by the Greater Cincinnati Radio Broadcasters Association. (Stations' employees didn't know who was behind the mysterious radio spots.)

Years later, Gilbert explained to me: "Because we were essentially running false advertising, we didn't want to do anything that would influence a person's purchasing decision. The only thing the commercial told you to do was to keep listening to the radio for more details. That was, in fact, the only thing we wanted people to do."

Gilbert won National Public Radio's “Unoriginal” songwriting contest in 1998; a regional Emmy Award in 1996 for his "Uncle Jay Explains The News" commentaries; and the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Blue Chip City songwriting competition in 1984.

From Gilbert's clever mind came jingles for Montgomery Cyclery (“The bicycle for me is at Montgomery Cyclery”); Grippo’s Potato Chips (“Everyone knows Grippo’s goes with fun”); and WEBN-FM’s “Snappy Cicada Pizza” parody commercial and many other bits for WEBN-FM's "Fools Parade" satires in the 1980s and '90s.

Since shortly after April Fool's day in 2014, Gilbert has been living on the air at "the FOX." That ends today.

Thanks, Jay. It’s been a fun ride.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.