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Day by Day: custodian, musician on fishing, fame

Ashiah Scharaga

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David Day has a kind, dimpled smile and eyes that light up when he talks about music, which he performs, for free, on the weekends.

During the week, he works for Facilities Management and Services on the fourth floor of the Student Services Center.

Day, who lives in Paradise, has worked for the university for 11 years. Though he was a professional country singer for more than 20 years, now he plays at birthday parties, office events and Windsor Chico Care Center, where he most recently played guitar and country-crooned on Saturday.

Are you from Chico?

Sacramento. That’s where I played music, all over Sacramento: Texas Saloon, National West, Forty Grand, KRAK Radio. You know, I played there for 25, 30 years in (David Day and the Cookin’ Country Band). It was a career; for five years, I played music for a living, full time, and then I just played every Friday and Saturday night (because) I worked the school district there (as a custodian).

Did you ever want to be the musician on the road?

When I was younger, yes. I was dreaming of being in the music business full time. And I can play music for a living right now, if I wanted to. But there’s no benefits, no medical, no stability. Right now I can go fishing, I can play music, I can go to the (sprint car) races. I have all the money I need.

I know what it’s like to be a star. And i know what it’s like to be a servant, because I’m a servant all day long. I’m in a unique position. I had (people) fly me around in their jet planes, roll out the red carpet and treat me like gold … I mean for years (in the band), I was treated like that. I had a blast. I mean, I lived the dream. But I don’t want to do it every day. I don’t want to be like Alan Jackson or Willie Nelson or these guys, where they’re just constantly bombarded with people. I feel like they don’t really have their personal lives.

So it’s more worthwhile to have that time to yourself?

Oh, yeah. And my boat. That’s my favorite time, when I’m out there by myself and my troller motor in my bass boat. … That’s therapy. You have to have a balance. I think a lot of people in life don’t find a balance. You know, they work work work work or they don’t do nothing. And I found a balance. I have it all. I have a great wife (Teri, who works for FMS on the second floor of the SSC). I had tons and tons of girlfriends when I played music, but they weren’t my wife. See, it’s different. It’s more quality of life.

And you get to spend time with her. Do you have any children?

I have a daughter (Michele). She’s in North Dakota. She has her own family there. We were very close. She sang with me through all the years. She sings too, but she never did it professionally. When I was playing, I’d get her up on stage.

When did you start playing?

When I was 9. And then when I got into my 20s, I started playing guitar, and I started to sing. And my voice was country, and I never played any country music. I never even listened to it. … I was doing Jimi Hendrix music, I was doing Cream, I was doing (Iron Butterfly’s) “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” And I had hair down to my waist. Now I don’t have any hair, so I wear my hats all the time.

How’d you know you had a country voice?

I just started singing, and all the sudden I can’t do Bob Seger, I can’t do Rod Stewart. My voice isn’t like that. So I do country stuff. I used to play at (Lake Tulloch in Oakdale). I’d be doing a show, and all the sudden these people’d come running around the corner. They’re running as hard as they can toward me, and they go, “We thought you were Merle Haggard.” They were just blown away. They wanted autographs and everything. I mean it’s fairy tale stuff. When you play music, it’s like a fairy-tale land. And people don’t do this now when I walk down the hallway (in the SSC), but when I play music, it’s a whole different world.

Why do you perform for free?

I don’t care about the money. I’d rather give than take. (The) CDs I’ve recorded were done on a little $200 recorder from Radio Shack. … With that same burner, I’ve given over 20,000 CDs away, and I’ve ran every one of them off on my spare time. And we just give them away for free. So as I give them away, the joy just comes back, and it just keeps rolling around all the time.

Ashiah Scharaga can be reached at [email protected] or @AshiahD on Twitter.

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Day by Day: custodian, musician on fishing, fame