By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Sep 30, 2002 at 5:59 AM

The on-air team of Dave Luczak and Carole Caine has defined morning FM radio in Milwaukee for nearly two decades. In fact, their morning drive program on 96.5 WKLH is steadily ranked in the city's top two wake-up shows, a challenging feat given the steep competition in the 5-10 a.m. time slot.

Maybe it's their obvious chemistry. Maybe it's their top-notch guests and interviews. Maybe it's the exotic locations where they travel and broadcast. Maybe it's all of the above. One thing's for sure, however: Milwaukee will keep on listening to Dave and Carole, as the team recently signed a 10-year contract, which is especially long in the industry.

Dave and Carole took some time out of their incredibly busy lives to talk about the schedule, their families, their on-air rapport and how they landed on our FM dial. Check out this exclusive interview with in another installment of Milwaukee Talks.

OMC: You guys are cracking jokes well before most of us even wake up. What's your schedule like, and more importantly, how do you do it?

DL: We go to bed between and 9-10 p.m.

OMC: But what time do you wake up?

DL: 3 a.m. We're here early. Our show starts at 5, but we're here prior to that.

OMC: Are you expected to live a normal life during the weekends?

CK: You're expected to live a normal life, 24-7. Like Dave said, the kids don't slow down. They don't care. Mom's tired, what's new? Come on. I've got to be someplace at 1 p.m. Get on the stick.

OMC: How long have you guys been working together?

CK: 18 years here.

OMC: But you've each been doing radio even longer?

DL: Yeah. I've been doing this since I was 18.

CK: Since I was 21.

OMC: Have you always worked morning drive?

CK: No, I didn't. Did you always do mornings, Carole?

DL: No, I did a noon-4 shift for about a year. Other than that it was just mornings.

CK: I did 3-11 in Fort Atkinskon. I did an 8-5 thing. When I hooked up with Dave, I was already doing mornings, since I was a traffic reporter.

OMC: Yet, this is the pinnacle of the radio career, right? Morning drive is the best day part.

DL: Unfortunately it is, yes.

OMC: It's an odd sacrifice, though. You work crazy hours but you're at the top of your career?

CK: Wanna tell him the truth, Dave? For me, it's been great. I've been able to be a full-time mom, and I have a full-time job. I could leave in the morning, even though I'd be tired by the end of the week, and be done with a good chunk of my day by the time that my kids were rousting. When they were very young, my husband, Lou, would take care of them. But I've always spent more of my children's waking hours with them than not with them and still been able to hold down a full-time job. For me, it's been great.

DL: I agree. Generally speaking, I'm home every day by between 1 and 3. Even though we have a lot of appearances that we have to go do, for the most part, I've always been there for the kids. I'm going to be 44 next month, and my kids are 20, 18 and 16. But I've been there all the way through their Little League games and all that stuff.

OMC: As parents, this is a good schedule then.

CK: It's an incredible schedule!

DL: We always say it's better than a real job. The things we've gotten to do, to experience, because of our radio show, it's hard to fathom. We've both had the chance to fly with the Blue Angels. We've done our show all over the world, from Hawaii, from Octoberfest three times. We did a week in London. Not too mention the people we meet and talk to. The idea is that we come in here, we're supposed to be having a good time. Basically, the better time we have the better time people have listening to us.

OMC: Does it feel like work, or are you just sitting around chatting in the morning, being yourselves?

CK: We're at a level now where it's automatic.

DL: We've worked together for so long that it's not really work, per se.

CK: But we know our responsibilities.

DL: She knows where I'm going to be, I know where she's going to be. Kevin (Brandt) has worked with us for seven years. We're all on the same page. It is work sometimes and it gets demanding, like when we have to emcee an event at night. We don't get home until 10 or 11, get three hours of sleep and are back here for a full day. Maybe that's a day we have to make a TV appearance. It's time consuming and tiring, physically exhausting.

OMC: But when you get to do something like Octoberfest, is that still work?

DL: Believe it or not, that's more work.

CK: You have to entertain the listeners, and you're out of your element. You've got to find stuff to make the show interesting. It's not like you can come in here and pull up stuff on your computer and check out the New York Times. It's almost like a vacation doesn't feel like a vacation anymore. For me, I'm always thinking while I'm trying to relax, "Shouldn't I be doing something?" Because we're working all the time when we're on location.

DL: It's weird to be some other place and not be broadcasting.

OMC: Tell me how the show came to be 18 years ago.

DL: If you go back to 1984, my morning show partner Don Girard and I were doing a show in Rochester, N.Y. We had several different job offers, and we ended up coming to Milwaukee to work at 96.5 WKLH. Don worked with me for a couple of years. About a year and a half after we were here, we needed someone to do news. So Carole came on board. She was a traffic reporter for the old WBCS, which was a country station that's now Lazer 103 across the hall. About four or five months later, Don got a job in San Francisco, He quit, and the rest is history, so they say. Since January 1986, it's been Dave and Carole in the mornings.

OMC: So Dave, you're not from Milwaukee?

DL: I'm from Pittsburgh.

CK: I'm from Beloit, the booming metropolis. When I got here, something just fit.

OMC: Something apparently does fit, since you guys are always number one, two or three in the market.

DL: We've never been number three (laughing).

CK: Write that down!

OMC: What are you doing that's so right?

DL: I don't know. I have no clue.

CK: I really love working with Dave. He's sort of like my brother/on-air husband, almost. In a weird way, I spend a lot of time with him and Kevin. We get along really well, and that translates.

DL: I think great chemistry is the key, and people appreciate listening to people just being themselves.

OMC: Do people like the familiarity of waking up to your voice? Do you get a lot of feedback and compliments?

DL: We get a lot of feedback and e-mails every day. They tell us we have a lot of listeners. But the feedback is more a reaction to what's being talked about on the show.

OMC: People are usually complaining when they send us feedback.

CK: That's the nature of the beast. People like to complain.

OMC: What's it like working with KB?

DL: He's just Kevin. What else can I say? I love him to death, because he's very funny. He's like your little bad brother. Every now and then you have to reach over and tweak his ear and say, "Stop that!" He's so lovable.

OMC: Sometimes you two butt heads a little, Carole, don't you?

CK: I think we all have similar viewpoints on how we want to live our lives. Butting heads? No. Fun disagreements? Yes.

OMC: We're you freaked out when management temporarily fired him?

DL: It was just a weird time. Almost a Twilight Zone.

OMC: We've found that our readers love hearing about the Milwaukee media. What's the fascination with you guys?

DL: I think it's that we're with them a lot, and we've been with them for a long time.

OMC: Do they feel like they know you?

DL: Yeah. We're like their friends.

OMC: Because you're on the radio and not on TV, do people recognize you in public?

DL: Yes, we've been on TV so much with our commercials.

OMC: Tell me about those spots. I love the Rolling Stones one.

CK: That's my favorite.

DL: We've probably done 50 or 60 different commercials. The one you're talking about is the "classic duos." We have more that we're doing, coming up in a couple of weeks.

CK: We could tell you, but we'd have to kill you.

OMC: Do you like making the commercials?

CK: Well, I'm not comfortable pretending to be something other than what I am, so it's kind of hard for me sometimes. I couldn't do it with anyone other than Dave, since he's like a cheerleader. But they're fun. It's just a different way we express our chemistry.

OMC: Do you miss working with Matt Vasgersian?

DL: Yeah, definitely. We love Matt.

CK: Matt is just an unbelievable talent.

OMC: How did you become such experts on pop culture?

DL: We watch some TV. This is our job, to know about pop culture, sports and news. For most people it's entertainment; for us, it's our job.

CK: I think that radio people are a different kind of people, because we have five hours to fill every single day. You spend your entire life researching. You kind of have this big hard drive to reach back into when you need it.

DL: We gotta kill a lot of time, man. And sometimes we don't know what we're going to talk about.

OMC: How big of a role does your producer play, cueing up sound bytes, etc.?

DL: I run the whole board for the show. Carole runs her news board. But our producer, Marcus Allen, does play a very vital role. He lines up our guests and screens our phone calls for us. He gathers the sound bytes and helps with input on the show.

CK: Dave is constantly moving around in there.

OMC: How do you sound like you're just having a conversation while you're working the board?

DL: It's just something I've been doing since I was 18.

CK: You have to really witness it to understand how he does it.

DL: I'm multi-tasking all the time. I have a lot of RAM.

OMC: Is radio racier now than it was when you started?

CK: I remember getting in trouble in Fort Atkinson because I said "fart."

DL: We're just a reflection of society. When I started doing it in the mid to late '70s, you couldn't say any of the stuff you say now. But then again, there were only three TV networks. There was no such thing as cable television or Jerry Springer or Howard Stern.

OMC: Does it make it more fun when you can open up a little?

DL: We can be more of ourselves instead of having to self-edit.

OMC: Do you like the music you play on KLH?

DL: I do, yeah. It's what I grew up with.

CK: I do, but I'd put a smattering of country in there now and then. This is what I listen to (pointing to a Ray Coniff album). It's much better than what we play.

OMC: Who are some of your favorite guests who have been on the show?

CK: Billy Joel, I thought, was incredible. He always stands out because he was so regular.

DL: John Mellancamp was a good guy.

OMC: Are you star struck when you talk to a John Cougar?

DL: When you talk to people, you realize they are exactly like you are. The one thing we've found is the bigger the star, the more down to earth they are. The more down to earth they are, the more popular they are.

OMC: You guys do a lot of charity work. Tell me about the Miracle Marathon for Children's Hospital.

DL: We've done it for five years now. We stay on the air for 60 hours. This past year we raised $1.2 million. It's a grass roots effort. It's just our listeners who band together to make it happen. When we start out, we don't know what we're going to raise. Watching those kids is amazing, it's awe inspiring.

OMC: Do you start to hallucinate after 60 hours?

CK: We keep pictures of the kids, a lot of them who don't make it, on our walls. I think the most satisfying part is the drive home, because I finally feel like I've done something that's worth something. It's a responsibility. If you're capable of helping raise that money, you have to take it seriously. We both live here, and Dave's practically a native Wisconsinite. You just have to help give back. Every human being is responsible.

DL: We spend a good chunk of those 60 hours at the hospital doing the show. We've witnessed surgeries on these little ones. You find these kids are so full of wisdom and courage. So it's not a wacky radio stunt to be awake for 60 hours. This is real life.

OMC: So it's a small price to pay.

DL: Considering the pain and the suffering these little ones are going through. We also do Christmas For Kids, which we've done since the mid '80s. Our audience steps up and volunteers.

OMC: Do you guys like living in Milwaukee?

CK: First of all, it's a safe place to raise kids. It's a big-city atmosphere in a smaller town.

DL: I love it. I think it's the people. The community spirit.

CK: People who live here really bond. There's something about Milwaukee that, no matter where you are in the world, you run into a guy with a Packers sweatshirt on. Someday knows somebody who lives there. It's like one big family.

OMC: Do you guys hang out off the air?

CK: (Laughing)

DL: I think it's hard for people to understand that when you're married with kids, you don't hang out.

CK: We do so many things at night, it is almost like we're getting together. I love getting together with Dave and his wife, Cindy.

OMC: Are your families supportive of your careers?

DL: Oh yeah. I think we draw our strength from our spouses. They're the strong ones. They're the foundations.

OMC: Do they listen to you?


CK: Lou's too busy trying to get the kids together.

DL: Cindy's been with me since the beginning, so she's heard it all before.

OMC: Where do go from here? Do you keep doing what you're doing?

DL: Yeah, we keep doing it, since we signed 10-year contracts!

OMC: That's a long contract!

DL: It's unprecedented. Carole and I will be together until 2011.

OMC: Is it rewarding to know that your management has enough faith in you to offer you a 10-year contract?

DL: I think it's a mutual thing. They've given us a ton of support, and in turn, we've busted our butts.

CK: They trust us to do the best job possible.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.