Wes McKane and Elizabeth Kay, the upbeat morning hosts on Milwaukee’s 99.1 FM, know how to have a good time on-air. Dedicated listeners feel as if they’ve known the duo forever, from their inside jokes to their regular contests and lively interviews with artists. They are, essentially, the faces of Milwaukee morning radio. Milwaukee Magazine caught up with the friendly morning hosts on their favorite local hot spots, their average days, and advice for their younger selves. (Interview originally run on Milk & Honey Magazine.)
Did you always want to be a radio DJ?
Wes: Never in a million years. Most people in this business grow up dreaming about it, but it didn’t hit me until one night… I met a DJ while I was bartending and was sold. 22 years later, here I am!
Elizabeth: Not exactly. But, looking back at my childhood, it seems like every time I could do something media-based, I jumped at the chance to get involved! In college, I focused on television broadcasting and went to a concert one night and saw a woman who worked as a DJ hosting on stage. It hit me then that DJ’ing was something I could pursue seriously. I went straight into radio after graduating from UW-Milwaukee.
What’s your favorite part about being Milwaukee-based?
Wes: The people. They’re genuine, cool, nice… some of my best friends on Earth are here in Milwaukee.
Elizabeth: Same! The people in Milwaukee ask how you’re doing and actually care to know your answer. They don’t take life too seriously… there’s a happy medium. People in Milwaukee can have a few beers and bar food at a dive bar one night and get dressed up and enjoy fancy shopping and exquisite restaurants the next. Plus, you can’t beat the summer festivals, and I love to ride my Harley!
Describe a typical day in the life.
Wes and Elizabeth: Well, we get here at 4:45 a.m, unless our boss is reading this and then it’s 4 a.m. We’re on air from 5-9 a.m, and then we either record commercials, plan the next day’s set or have some type of meeting afterward. We head out around 11ish and enjoy the rest of our days. We’re both members of the Wisconsin Athletic Center down the road and enjoy working out, and we both have kids so we have to grocery shop for them and stuff like that. Otherwise we’ll have friends over, nap (Wes takes three to four a week!), get a massage, etc.
Do you ever get tongue-tied on the air?
Wes: Elizabeth comes up with 90 percent of the content prior to going on air, and I just come in with the Hail Mary’s once we’re on. But no, we don’t get tongue tied or anything.
Elizabeth: Ask my parents: I really never stop talking, so I can always come up with something to say!
Any advice for aspiring radio DJs?
Wes: Don’t. Ha, kidding – you do have to have extremely thick skin, however. There are some un-glamorous parts to the job; we work when everyone doesn’t and usually always work holidays. As a young DJ, life consists of lots of Ramen and hot dogs because the pay starts low!
Elizabeth: You have to do this because you love it, not because you think you’ll make millions. But there are absolutely perks to the job. I’ve interviewed both Trump and Clinton – how cool is that? But when I got started, I was making $13,000 a year in this business.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Wes: Write it all down and have your plan, then crumple it up and throw it away because nothing will work out how you think. But enjoy the ride!
Elizabeth: Don’t get too caught up in worrying about things that will never even happen.
Do you ever get annoyed with a song?
Wes and Elizabeth: Every day. Our station has a lot of crossover hits, meaning there’s something for everyone, but that doesn’t mean we like every single song. Think of it as a restaurant; the waitress doesn’t have to love every single dish on the menu.
What’s your favorite Milwaukee coffee shop?
Wes: Colectivo in Bayview.
Elizabeth: Starbucks on Downer and Webster; I’ve been going there since high school to get my peppermint mocha. And I do love Rochambo on Brady Street.
Favorite Milwaukee festival?
Wes: Bastille Days! Hands down.
Elizabeth: It has to be Summerfest. I’ve been going every year since I was 13. I have so many memories of concerts there.
Favorite Milwaukee bar?
Wes: The Cozy Inn in Oak Creek. I bar-tend there Thursdays from 12 to two.
Elizabeth: The Yard at the Iron Horse. My husband Eric and I take bikes there in the summer. And Eric and I actually met at the Upper 90 Sports Pub, so I have to say there, too.
Favorite Milwaukee restaurant?
Wes: Lazy Susan is great. I love brunch, and the Gingerbread House does a great job. And Cafe Benelux for the ambiance of course.
Elizabeth: Lake Park Bistro is perfect for a fancy place. And I like brunch at the Iron Horse.
Favorite up-and-coming Milwaukee hot spot?
Wes: Vanguard in Bayview!
Elizabeth: This might be a stretch from Milwaukee, but I’m beyond excited about The Corners going up in Brookfield. One of my favorite Milwaukee restaurants is Bel Air Cantina and they have one now at The Corners! I live near there and I can’t wait to have their tacos on the regular.
What has been your favorite experience as a DJ?
Wes: I’ve flown with the Blue Angels, and I MC’ed an event with Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. And I’ve been on the red carpet at the American Music Awards!
Elizabeth: I met the Green Bay Packers in the locker room after they won the Superbowl. The opportunities for this job really are endless, but you just have to put in the dirty work at the start. There are definitely perks to becoming a radio DJ!