One man’s decades-long rumination on rock.
Steve Palec has hosted the “Rock ’N’ Roll Roots” show on WKLH-FM 96.5 since June 1987. He prepares for the weekly show, which airs from 9 a.m. to noon every Sunday, at an impeccably maintained studio in his spacious Wauwatosa colonial home. A partner in the real estate firm Colliers International/Wisconsin, Palec has a collection of more than 10,000 vinyl albums and CDs organized alphabetically, and each week, he dives deep into the stacks to program a “Root Salute” featuring an artist in great detail. For Palec, it’s all about the stories between the songs.
What has been your favorite show?
I did a Les Paul special. He just fascinates me. Not only did he invent the solid-body guitar, he also developed multitrack recording and was one of the first people ever on television.
Any shows that you regret?
I took the Gordon Lightfoot catalog, and I tried to write a premise and find a tie between all these songs. It was the worst show I’ve ever done. On a trip to London, I saw shows that did something similar with the music of Queen and Rod Stewart. You basically take a handful of songs and build a story around them. I actually like Gordon Lightfoot, but the premise was weak.
Do you get complaints from listeners?
Going back 20 years, I featured America as a Root Salute artist. I got letters and calls saying this isn’t rock ’n’ roll. And I’ve been told to stop talking over the records. I also remember featuring Frank Sinatra, and people were saying, ‘What the hell is this?’ But I don’t get negative feedback anymore. After 28 years, I think I have you aware enough that this isn’t your typical radio show.
How long will you continue with “Rock ’N’ Roll Roots”?
If the station doesn’t benefit from it anymore, I’d have to be prepared that they may someday say, “Adios.” But as long as it’s fun and I have stories to tell, I’ll do it.