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Five Questions: Karen Dalessandro

From cow pasture to Nashville salute, Karen Dalessandro makes it all the way

It’s quite the deal when a local DJ gets inducted into a music hall of fame. That’s what is happening to WMIL(FM)’s Karen Dalessandro. The iHeartMedia Milwaukee country music/morning show host has been with the station since 1998 and she will be inducted in the Country Radio Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

Radio World: How did you start out in the business?
Karen Dalessandro: My radio career has spanned over three decades and it was 1980 after graduating from Specs Howard Broadcasting School in Detroit, that I took my first on-air job in tiny Ypsilanti, Mich., on WSDS(AM). I was 19 years old hosting a midday show on a country station in a cow pasture.

RW: Did you ever think you’d be recognized as one of the top country music radio broadcast personalities in America?
Dalessandro: Not in a million years! When you love radio, your job becomes a huge part of your life. And a good on-air personality shares their life on the job. You’re always thinking about relatable topics for the show, promotional ideas and fun contests. I’ve spent the last 30 years living my dream so this is icing on the cake!

RW: Did you ever think you’d be inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame?
Dalessandro: Again … not ever! At no point in the past 30 years, did it occur to me that the job I loved so much would reward me in such a big way. My career began on country radio and my passion for the music and the industry makes this especially sweet. It’s truly the ultimate gift to a country radio broadcaster and I’m honored to be a recipient.

RW: So what’s the secret to being a great on-air broadcaster?
Dalessandro: It’s funny, some of the best broadcasters don’t fit the age-old stereotype. They don’t have great big voices, they don’t revel in prank phone calls or silly jokes. They’re real, genuine people that know how to connect to other people. Add creativity to the human element and you’ve got a potential radio star. A little Type A doesn’t hurt because the job is 24/7 and you have to be willing to make it a lifestyle.

RW: Where do you go from here?
Dalessandro: Ratings come out every month and you’re only as good as your last monthly so there’s always a challenge! Luckily, being inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame doesn’t require retirement so happily I get to keep working in the business I love.