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In Music

"My coworkers have hobbies, too, but radio is my golf," says Palec.

In Music

On music in Palec's iPod: "I like anything that's melodic. It doesn't have to be deep or sincere."

In Music

Palec, with the late guitar great, Les Paul.

Milwaukee Talks: WKLH radio host Steve Palec




Audio Podcast: Steve Palec talks about the technical side of the radio biz, and why he loves it
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Milwaukee radio veteran Steve Palec is a busy man. In addition to hosting "Rock and Roll Roots" every Sunday on 96.5 FM WKLH, he also hosts a weeknight show Monday through Fridays called "Legends of Rock" on the station. On top of that, Palec holds a "real" job in commercial real estate as a senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis.

Somehow, the 53-year-old Palec also finds time to be a dad and work out every other day. Golf is some guys' hobby, says Palec, but his is radio.

We don't buy it. Music and radio is more than just a hobby or a job for Palec, whose savant-like knowledge of classic rock makes him a walking Wikipedia. In the next few weeks Palec will take that experience and start a blog on OnMilwaukee.com, too -- as if he doesn't have enough on his plate.

We sat down with Palec to talk radio, music and what it was like spending three hours with guitar legend Les Paul. Enjoy this latest Milwaukee Talks.

OnMilwaukee.com: You do a rather time-intensive radio show six days a week, and you hold a full-time job as a commercial real estate broker. When do you sleep?

Steve Palec: Both of them are full-time jobs. Commercial real estate is so consuming and pressure-filled. My co-workers have hobbies, too, but radio is my golf. I just stupidly turned it into another full-time job with the weeknight show. I feel like John Edwards with two separate lives.

OMC: But you started in radio, so it's not really a hobby, right?

SP: When I was a sophomore in high school, I was fascinated with radio. I sent a letter to every station in town and said I'll do anything; I'll sweep your floors. One did have an opening for a janitor, the other was WUWM. They said I could hang out, and I went every single day. They put me on the air after a couple of weeks. Dave Edwards was the guy who gave me my break, and he's still there. After three years, I went to Whitewater and worked at their station.

After that, I actually had a job at a bank for a while, but I really still wanted to be in radio, so I was dabbling as a sportscaster. This was in the late '70s, and I was a stringer for NBC. I realized that you could eat for free, since I was literally starving, collecting nickels from the couch to eat. I did some sports reports for WAUK and WQFM, and I ended up with my first full-time radio job doing overnights at QFM. Those were wild days.

OMC: I've heard some good stories about that station.

SP: That was an eye opener, from sexual exploits to things I can't talk about.

OMC: Yet, you've taken a slightly different direction with your career.

SP: I went to WZUU, with Larry the Legend and Jonathon Green. I was doing commercials as the production director. I wound up doing mornings on QFM for about three years and then got the idea in my head that I didn't want to be 40 years old and still playing the new Stones album. That's when I got into commercial real estate in '86.

OMC: Apparently, radio and music never got out of your blood.

SP: Absolutely not. It did, for about a year, by necessity, since I was so naïve about the world of business. In '87, WKLH came to me and said, "Hey, do you want to do a show?"

OMC: Are you in love with the medium of radio or are you in love with music? Or both?

SP: Both. If you've ever had that feeling of someone coming over and you saying, "Here, listen to this." And it's something you really like that you want them to hear. And you have the captive audience, and they go, "Wow, that's really good, what is that?" That feeling is exactly why I do this.

OMC: But you've worked in different formats. Clearly not every one of them has been your favorite genre.

SP: True. When I was working at QFM, we were forced to play AC/DC and Loverboy, things we weren't listening to at the time. A lot of us on the air were making fun of what we were playing. We were appalled. In decades of radio, I've somehow, in varying amounts, had the freedom to do some things that others don't get to do. So, if I want to play Little Feat or Barenaked Ladies or Dean Martin, I always had that chance. I could put up with the meat and potatoes if I could have some dessert.

OMC: My colleague Drew Olson says you're the Rain Man of classic rock.

SP: I'd consider that a compliment. I'm just cursed with always remembering things that interest me, and anything that doesn't becomes a huge a challenge. I can be savant like on things that interest me ... and an idiot on things that probably shouldn't.

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Talkbacks

sandstorm | Feb. 12, 2010 at 1:20 p.m. (report)

"The best thing on KLH radio." is Little Steven's Underground Garage still on? that's a great show as well.

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bad61ger | Feb. 11, 2010 at 10:18 p.m. (report)

Nice interview, Andy. I've enjoyed listening to Steve Palec for years. However, I respectfully disagree that Elton John "sucks" these days. Take a listen to two of his most recent CDs, "Songs from the West Coast" and "The Captain and the Kid," and let me know if you still believe that.

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dickdave | Feb. 11, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. (report)

The best thing on KLH radio. Maybe his program director should take note of his format and dump their morning team. However he repeats himself on rock and roll roots, same featured artists and stories. He is spot on when he talks about rocker's not being relevant anymore.

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CoolerKing | Feb. 11, 2010 at 7:21 a.m. (report)

One of the worst changes that happened in commercial radio is when they took away the DJ's creative license and forced them to play a short list of songs. Steve Palec was fortunate to work at QFM during commercial FM radio's "golden age" which ended up pushing me towards college radio after that age ended. College radio is where that creative license found a new home.

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marley4432 | Feb. 10, 2010 at 3:03 p.m. (report)

Great article and Steve is a better person!

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