A television movie about the making of the “War of the Worlds” triggered Lee Stevens’ interest in radio.
Stevens – or “Captain Lee” as he is known to his WDUX audience – said he was a teenager when he saw that movie.
He remembers learning how the sound effects were made for that radio drama, and by the time he was a senior at Little Wolf High School in Manawa, he began thinking about a career in radio.
Stevens went to the Trans-American School of Broadcasting in Wausau.
After completing the one-year course, he could not find a job in radio right away, and so, he returned to working at Pizza Hut in Clintonville.
In the fall of 1980, Stevens began working part time at Waupaca’s WDUX, and several months later, he went full time with the station.
Earlier this year, he celebrated his 30th anniversary of working at the radio station.
“I worked nights for a year,” he said of his early days at WDUX. “By luck, Jim King decided to leave, so in the beginning of 1982, I was promoted to mornings.”
That meant Stevens had to be at the station by 4:30 a.m.
“I grew up on a farm. Dad was up at 5:30 a.m.. I didn’t like getting up early, so I decided to go into radio,” he said as he smiled. “Shortly after getting hired, I had to be up at 3:30 in the morning.”
When asked about his morning duties, he said. “We had a news director coming in, so I had to play the music and be as entertaining as possible. I had to follow Jim King. They were big shoes to follow.”
Stevens did the morning shift for about eight months before switching to afternoons.
“I couldn’t stay awake on my way to work,” he said.
On one particular winter morning, he fell asleep while driving and ended up in the ditch.
Once he began working in the afternoon, his job duties included copywriting and announcing.
Today, he continues to be a copywriter and also the host of “Swap Shop,” which is on AM 800.
“It started even before I got here,” he said. “I guess it’s one of our more popular programs.”
Stevens began hosting the show in the early 1990s. “If it wasn’t for ‘Swap Shop,’ I probably wouldn’t be on the air anymore, other than commercials,” he said.
As for the copywriting part of his job, he says it is fun to write commercials.
These days, Stevens works from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and he said the past 30 years have gone by quickly.
During that time, he has seen many changes in radio.
“We’ve gone from playing records and albums to having all of our music downloaded and on computer,” he said. “In copywriting, I went from a typewriter to a keyboard.”
What Stevens likes about his job is the creative part of it, especially when he can put together commercials with different voices and sound effects.
“When you hit on a good one, it’s pretty fun,” he said.
Stevens also explained how he came to be known as “Captain Lee.”
“When Mike Stockwell was the AM announcer, he created a fictional WDUX helicopter, and he made me the captain. And, of course, we had fun with it,” he said.
Stevens has his share of memories from working at WDUX and among them is the time he got to ask former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre a few questions.
It was shortly after Favre had been traded to the Packers, and Stevens was doing a remote broadcast in Wautoma at a Packers charity basketball game.
Favre was at the event, and when it was half time of the game, Stevens got the opportunity to talk to the quarterback.
“I asked him about three questions, and one was ‘How do you pronounce your name?'” he said.
With that interview, Stevens was able to stake his claim as being one of the first broadcasters in the state to interview Favre.
Stevens continues to enjoy working at WDUX. He and his wife Brenda have four children and four grandchildren.
Bill Laird is the owner of WDUX, and he said Stevens has been a great employee.
“He’s very versatile and does a lot of things,” Laird said. “He’s been doing copy. He’s the ‘Swap Shop’ guy.”
Laird said that many radio stations no longer have copywriters. “Lee’s been an integral part of the station for many years,” he said. “Lee’s done a lot, seen a lot and hopefully, had a lot of fun through the years.”