Gerold Smith, owner of Jackson radio stations BDAY 99.1 FM and 970 AM, is the youngest radio-station owner in the state at 36. Interestingly enough, a career in radio wasn't what Smith imagined for himself early in life.
Born and raised in Jackson, Smith attended Provine High School and went on to Jackson State University, where he majored in political science with the goal of becoming an attorney. His plans ended up changing when he started looking for a job while still in college.
"As a freshman, I hadn't found any work," Smith said. "My cousin, who was the program director for the school's radio station, WJSU 88.5 FM, told me about an opening at the radio station and invited me to come over. At first I working as a board operator, running programs for the station. I worked on a jazz program and a program called All Things Considered, which was basically a five o'clock news show. I worked my way up to production, and soon, I was skipping class to learn how to do radio work."
Smith learned many aspects of the radio trade during his time with WJSU, from production to sales and general management, and he made a career of it after graduation. He took a job at Jackson-based station Hot 97.7 in 2001 and worked there until 2005, when another station bought out 97.7.
For a short time, Smith worked at Nissan, until he found his way back to radio with a job as program director for Gulfport hip-hop station 92.5 The Beat in 2007. During his time there, Smith became friends with hip-hop artist Doug E. Fresh, who helped Smith get a position doing marketing and branding work for a Los Angeles radio station owned by Stevie Wonder.
Smith made plans to own his own radio station by 2015; however, his plan became a reality much sooner, in May 2012.
"I was on a plane to L.A. when one of my program directors had me come back to Jackson to meet someone, a man named Ken Raimey, who was selling a radio station," Smith said. "I met him, we worked out the details, and I found myself owning a station much earlier than I expected."
Now his goal is to expand his business in Jackson further.
"I have my eye on more radio stations, and I hope to become even more successful in Jackson and the state," Smith said. "I'm also moving BDAY to Mill Street in Jackson in six months. I'm proud to become part of the Fondren community."
You can follow BDAY 99.1 FM on Twitter, on Facebook at BDAYRadioSM and on Instagram at BDAYRadio.