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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Call Sign

Clay Roth's outgoing personality was his cue to pursue a career in radio.

Clay Roth received sage advice when he started his career on the airwaves: “If you don’t love radio with 100 percent of your heart, it’s not for you.” Twelve years in, the on-air personality at WSTO’s Hot 96 can say he still does.

Radio as a profession first clicked when Roth was a jokester growing up in Richland City, Indiana. As “a very outgoing kid, I like to make people laugh,” he says he listened to “a lot of Hot 96” personalities growing up, from Brad Booker and Sarah Pepper to Atom Smasher, Shawnda McNeal, and Joe Pesh.

“I just knew that I loved listening to entertainment on the radio,” he says, adding, “I thought that’d be really cool just to have people hear me and not know what I’m like and kind of be like a secret celebrity.”

Roth got his first taste of radio performance at Evansville’s Southern Indiana Career & Technical Center, which broadcasts Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp.’s station 90.7 WPSR. In college, he took to the airwaves at the University of Southern Indiana’s AM station, The Edge. (Current listeners know it as 95.7 FM The Spin.)

“At that point, I knew what I wanted to do,” he says. “I was locked in, like, I’ve got to do radio for a career now.”

While a student, Roth interned at Hot 96, producing promotional segments and earning himself a job when he graduated from USI in 2016. Laid off from Hot 96 in 2020 during pandemic-related belt-tightening, Roth served as the creative services director at 101.5 CIL-FM in Carterville, Illinois. Eighteen months later, Hot 96 had an opening for an on-air personality. Roth applied, secured it, and has been on Evansville’s airwaves ever since. He considers it a joy to be “doing something that I love,” and something he never tires of.

“I don’t stop listening to radio stations,” says Roth, 30. “I’ll listen to ours, I’ll listen to others. You don’t want to stop crafting your talent. Compared to the other on-air talents in this building, I’m nowhere close to being as talented as they are. So I’ll just try to listen to them …andtrytoseehowIcannotbejust like them, but kind of mold myself into something kind of like that.”

As part of Hot 96’s Morning Show, his shift starts at 5 a.m., but he doesn’t mind, especially since that means his workday wraps up by 2 p.m. In addition to manning the radio dial, Roth also emcees sporting events, such as weekend baseball games for the Evansville Otters, University of Evansville men’s basketball games, and March’s Ohio Valley Conference hoops championships.

“If I can at least get a couple min- utes of your time and entertain you and maybe leave you with a smile or some- thing that makes you remember what you just heard, then I feel like that’s mission accomplished,” he says.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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