Mike Stevens, of Wallingford, hosts the weekday morning show at 102.9 DRC FM. | Andrew Ragali/Record-Journal
October 22, 2013 01:10AM
By Andrew Ragali
BLOOMFIELD —There’s no getting used to starting work at 4:30 a.m., even after two decades in the radio broadcast business, said Mike Stevens, co-host of Mike and Kim in the Morning, 102.9 DRC-FM’s weekday morning show.
Stevens wakes up at 3:15 a.m. every weekday and drives from Wallingford, where he was raised, to the radio station’s headquarters in Bloomfield. By 5 a.m., Stevens is on-air with co-host Kim Zachary, of Somers.
“By 5:15 a.m., we’re usually in here laughing until we’re crying,” Stevens said.
While the hours aren’t exactly ideal, Stevens and Zachary said they love their jobs. They worked together at DRC-FM 20 years ago before Zachary left for another job in Springfield. They kept in touch, and were only reunited on-air about three weeks ago. Zachary said she was hired to “give a female perspective” to the morning show. Between classic rock hits and sports, news and traffic reports, Stevens and Zachary engage in playful banter. Nothing on the show is scripted, Zachary said, even advertisements. The duo read advertisements off bullet points. They stay away from word-for-word scripts to keep the show conversational.
“We do well talking to the listener, not at them,” Zachary said.
After being apart for 20 years, Stevens and Zachary have no trouble striking up conversation during their show, which runs until 9 a.m. Keeping the show light and entertaining is important, said Stevens, because often, their voices are the first thing people hear when they wake up.
“We’re at the breakfast table with these people,” he said.
There’s no shortage of entertainment while working in radio, Stevens said. While songs are playing, the duo often look up interesting news stories to talk about on-air, or interact with fans through social media. Off-air conversations can go anywhere, and often focus on food. Sausage, pizza and breakfast all came up Monday.
“I eat lunch for breakfast,” said Stevens, a self-proclaimed foodie who attended culinary school before shifting to the radio industry. “Breakfast in the morning reminds me of school.”
The station’s traffic reporter, Cindy Weightman, “has no filter,” Zachary said.
When Stevens or Zachary cue Weightman up for a traffic segment, she responds by saying “roger” in different accents. The traffic reporter’s antics are often the highlight of the day, Stevens said.
People who call into the station can also be interesting. Sometimes, said Stevens, people call just to practice for when there’s a contest coming up. Contests create word of mouth and excitement for listeners and on-air personalities, he said. Stevens and Zachary were disappointed when one caller lost his chance at $1,300 Monday morning when he couldn’t put a name to a short song clip.
“I get nervous doing this,” Stevens said. “I don’t know why; it’s their money, not mine.”
Stevens is proud to call Wallingford his hometown, and especially enjoys the east side of town.
“It’s such a cool town,” he said. “There’s something for everyone, that’s why I drive 32 miles a day, both ways.”
Stevens got his start in the radio business while in Wallingford. The Lyman Hall High School alumnus was working at the Nautilus Fitness Center, which no longer exists in town. Through his work as a trainer at the gym, Stevens met someone who did a morning radio show in Meriden. The connection suggested he get into the business. Stevens was 24 years old at the time. Since that encounter, radio broadcasting has been his life.
Wallingford has another connection with DRC-FM besides Stevens. Franklin Malcolm Doolittle, a descendant of Abraham Doolittle—one of Wallingford’s original settlers—established the radio station in 1919 when he created the Doolittle Radio Corporation, which is where the DRC name comes from. Doolittle was instrumental in radio history, broadcasting the state’s first commercial AM (amplitude modulation) signal from the west peak of Meriden Mountain in 1936.
In 1939, Doolittle spent $20,000 to put America’s first commercial FM (frequency modulation) station on the air, according to a historical timeline provided by the station. Doolittle, who died in 1979, sold the station to the Buckley-Jaeger Broadcasting Corporation of Connecticut in 1959. The station is still owned by Buckley Radio. Doolittle is buried at In Memoriam Cemetery in Wallingford, Stevens said.