Via Maureen Barkume, Blarney Stone Broadcasting:
“Big Dog” Dave Sherbert wasn’t there when the Italian inventor Gugglielmo Marconi built the first commercially successful wireless telegraphy system that paved the way for commercial radio. To listeners throughout Central and Northern Michigan, it just seems that way.
But soon, that friendly, mellow voice that has graced the airways from a signal emanating from this lovely river town will go silent. Sherbert, 65, who has entertained us in our homes, cars and boats with music, interviews and, every now and then, one of his own fishing stories, is retiring. Friday, May 19, will be his last day on the air for Blarney Stone Broadcasting’s Q-100 (WQON, 100.3-FM).
“It’s time,” he said. This monumental life decision hit him like a bucket of ice water – well, a lot more than a bucket full, to be accurate. An avid fisherman in all seasons, Sherbert hit a soft spot on a local lake when he was ice-fishing this winter and wound up chest deep in the frigid water.
“This (local radio) has become a young person’s thing – especially at a rock station,” he said. “And besides, I want to enjoy the next 20 years or so.”
He has no big plans for his retirement, other than to fish more and spend more time on the golf courses with his wife, Ruth, who has been retired for the last 18 months.
“That’s something my wife and I can do together,” he said, “as long as I keep my mouth shut.”
One thing Sherbert won’t be doing, like many retirees from this region, is head south for the winters. “No plans for anything like that,” he said. “You can’t ice fish in Florida.”
So he’s staying put in Grayling, where he’s called home since 1976 after moving north from his first radio gig in Kalamazoo, which he started in 1973. Nevertheless, his departure leaves a gaping hole in Q-100’s lineup, where Sherbert has been a fixture since, well, since forever, it seems.
And he will be missed.
“We’ll do our best to fill that slot, but we’re not kidding ourselves: Nobody can replace Dave Sherbert,” Blarney Stone President Sheryl Coyne said. “Those are some impossible shoes to fill.”
“But we wish Dave and Ruth all the best in his well-earned retirement and we cannot thank him enough for all he did for Jerry and me when we bought the stations in 2012. His reputation in our community and the institutional memory he had regarding how things worked around here. Honestly, I don’t know how we would have managed without him. He made the transition so much smoother than we had a right to expect.”
Born in Kingsport, Tennessee, to a pastor who brought his family north to find a teaching position, Sherbert remembers moving to Houghton Lake when he was about 5 years old. But the family didn’t stay Up North very long. He spent his formative years moving back and forth a couple of times from Eaton Rapids, south of Lansing, to Gull Lake (between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo), where his father taught English and his mother stayed home to raise three children.
Both of his siblings wound up in the medical profession. Dave chose radio.
“Our parents gave us all the same career advice,” he said. “We could do anything we wanted – as long as we get a job.”
So he forged a career by talking for a living, which is a bit ironic for someone who prefers to keep to himself and not say a whole lot when the red “ON AIR” light is off. In fact, anyone who doesn’t know Sherbert and meets him around town might describe him as being a bit shy, or even introverted.
“But in the studio, I’m just sitting there in a padded room talking to myself,” he said. “I’m there speaking into the microphone, like I’m talking to just one person.”
He wasn’t always so quiet, apparently.
“When we were making those long trips in the car, my dad used to give me a dime to shut up for 10 minutes,” Sherbert said. “That’s when I learned there was money in talking.”
While it might involve a bit more than how one listener described his job – “All you do is take requests and play songs!” – he acknowledged he has been blessed to cross paths professionally with renowned people like Fred Bear, Chet Atkins, former Gov. William Milliken and a Miss America from Michigan.
Many of those close encounters came during the talk show Sherbert started 28 years ago, the one that has evolved into the hour-long “Northern Focus” show that airs weekly on Friday mornings at 9 a.m. When he started the segment, it was typically a 20-30-minute interview at a local restaurant.
Sometimes he pre-taped the show, but often it was live. One of his fondest memories of that show was the morning his guest failed to appear.
“And we were live,” Sherbert said. “But there was this older gentleman there who overheard what was going on and he happened to mention he was in radio back in the 1940s.”
So Sherbert invited him over to the microphone.
“One of my better moments,” he said. “The man turned out to be a great interview.
Over the years, Sherbert has worked for all three local Blarney Stone Broadcasting stations – twice, he said.
“Apparently, I can’t keep a job,” he joked. He also has worked under seven owners in his career in Grayling.
“And I can truthfully say that Sheryl and Jerry have been the best ones, by far,” Sherbert said. “They treat us like human beings.”
Sherbert also held titles such as news director and program director among the many hats he has worn. He remembers the days that he would go home from a long day that included four-plus hours of live radio, then cutting numerous commercials and programming his next day’s show only to go home, get out the manual typewriter and type up the invoices for billing.
“The technology today,” he said. “Things have changed – and that’s a very good thing. But I have to admit, it’s been a lot of fun.”