WYSO

Classic Country Radio Thrives in the Miami Valley

Apr 28, 2017

WBZI in Xenia is a classic country radio station with a large, loyal listening base—so large that they have 3AM and 2FM signals broadcasting across Southwest Ohio. They play old school bluegrass, country, and gospel. They also keep their listeners up-to-date with news, stock, and farm reports. Their brand of classic country radio is both timeless and current, and it's been gaining popularity.

The Guitar Giant

Chubby Howard at Tudor’s Biscuit World.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

Once a month, steel guitar legend Chubby Howard has breakfast at Tudor’s Biscuit World in Xenia. He co-hosts a classic country radio show while he’s eating and talking to customers, and people come from all over the Miami Valley to chat with Chubby.

Chubby Howard has spent time with most of the musicians he plays on the air—country stars like Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, and Boxcar Willie. He’s been inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, too. When he’s on air, Howard talks about himself in third person and praises his advertisers’ products:

“The first Saturday of each month, Chubby visits Tudor’s Biscuit World, my favorite place! And don’t forget, they got a biscuit named after me, and boy, you cannot get anything better than Chubby’s Biscuit, okay?”

After a Ricky Skaggs song finishes, Howard says, “I’ve got to meet him about a half dozen times, and he’s always been good to Chubby!”

Tudor’s Biscuit World is a chain with 79 locations, but the one in Xenia is owned by Sue and Hank Roysden. They say Chubby was one of the keys to their success.

“Chubby’s the one that really got people interested in coming in here,” Sue says. “When he started advertising for us on WBZI, Wow! It changed the whole thing.”

Chubby Howard plays steel guitar every Wednesday afternoon at the VFW in Enon, and he’s just one of the WBZI personalities that spend a lot of time out in the community.

Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

The Radio Rambler

The station’s owner, Joe Mullins, is perhaps the best known of the bunch. Recently, his band, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, has played shows with Centerville High School’s Alternative Strings Orchestra, a 40 piece ensemble.

Mullins says his father—the late Paul “Moon” Mullins, who was a bluegrass player and radio personality—is the reason for his success.

“I had constant exposure to bluegrass music and to our style of radio, old fashion AM Radio,” Mullins says.

“It’s full service, meaning you don’t just play music. You have to know how to take care of the farm report, and the stock market report, and the ball game score, and the weather forecast, and pay attention to the community.  So, I grew up understanding full service community radio, but with quite a bit of twang to it.”

Mullins bought WBZI in 1995, and he says radio had become a bit like fast-food by that time. You’d find the same thing on the menu everywhere, from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon. Mullins’ programing filled a void, and the station spread. Today, they have 3AM and two 2FM signals that broadcast as far as Northern Kentucky and Eastern Indiana. When Mullins says his channels are “throwbacks” and “dinosaurs,” he doesn’t mean it’s bad for business.

“Agriculture is still the biggest industry in the state of Ohio, and WKFI, our Wilmington station, those call letters used to stand for ‘We Keep Farmers Informed.’ And we are still an affiliate of the Ohio Ag network and of Brownfield Network, and we have important farm news and market reports every morning.”

Mullins is also the host of “Hymns from the Hills” on WBZI and “Front Porch Fellowship,” a bluegrass gospel show that airs on over 100 stations in the U.S. and Canada.

The Tradin’ Post

Daniel Mullins hosts the Tradin’ Post at WBZI.
Credit Jason Reynolds / WYSO

One of Classic Country Radio’s most popular shows is the Tradin’ Post, which allows callers to get on the air and share what they have for sale—or what they’d like to buy. There’s a bit of everything, from vehicles and sewing machines to old vinyl records and handguns.  

Daniel Mullins is the host of the Tradin’ Post. He’s also Joe Mullins’ son, making Daniel the third generation of classic country radio personality in the family.

“You never know what you’re gonna get,” Daniel says. “You’ll get people calling in looking for bulls or selling pigmy goats. I mean, it’s just everything. It’s a hoot!”  

Among the regular callers, there was guy who kept trying in to sell a vintage car, a 1965 Buick Electra 225. He called in twice a week for months, and Joe Mullins told Daniel to sweeten the pot by telling listeners that they’d throw in free breakfast at Tudor’s Biscuit World once a month for a year for whoever finally bought the car.  

That Buick 225 sold a little while later, and everyone met up at Tudor’s.