You may not know David Lee’s name – although if you grew up in Milwaukee listening to the old WQFM, you might – but you certainly know his deep, bass voice from station IDs on Westwood One, MLB Network and more.
Lee’s baritone voice is everywhere these days, and now it’s found a new home on a newly created Internet radio station the Green Bay native calls “The Titletown Music Archive.”
Even though he’s been a presence on the airwaves throughout his career, has hasn’t been a DJ since the early ’90s. So in a way, Lee, who has a studio in Pleasant Prairie, is doing what he knows best. And he’s having fun with it.
We last interviewed Lee in 2009, but we recently caught up with him by phone to talk about his new station, his evolving voice throughout the years and why he picked the Internet for his latest project.
OnMilwaukee: What was the impetus behind starting the station?
David Lee: About two years ago, the seed was planted. We were at a reunion for my high school radio station in Green Bay. One of the guys that was there were just like, “Hey, it would be great if we could have kind of a freewheeling music format, played a little bit of everything, not as many rules as a regular station.”
And that’s when I thought, I deal with all these internet people that have their stations I do IDs for, I wonder what it would entail to do that. There’s royalties you have to pay and there’s a lot of hoops you gotta go through to get it going. So I kind of dragged my feet on it, and then finally this fall we got the impetus to put it together, me and my website guy.
Some people in Milwaukee remember you from the WQFM days. How long ago was that?
That was back in 1992. Since then, I’ve done a lot of radio imaging for other stations. I’m the recorded voice doing the promos and the imaging.
But now, you get to play music that you want to play, right?
Right. I tailor it somewhat. I want people to be able to listen to it, so I gotta put some hits in there and some classics and stuff like that. But at least 50 percent of it is stuff that I like. I like a lot of the old blues and soul and reggae and stuff from a little different decades, so I throw a lot of that in there. Also, some of the deeper cuts and some of the other cross genres. I wanted it to be a station that you didn’t have to hit the dial for all different things or your different moods.
Why did you call it the Titletown Music Archive?
I’ll probably be moving back there soon. We’ve kind of made a decision. We’ll probably head out there in a year or so.
Right now, you’re south of Milwaukee. Probably none of the people who hear you on Westwood One have any idea that you’re here in Wisconsin, right?
No. Just people that follow me on social media. I mentioned it on Twitter that I’m from Wisconsin.
At the moment, you’re not doing live DJ stuff on your station, right?
No. It was a lot of work just to add the music, categorize it all. I’ve got about 50 different unique liners that I run. So I’m kind of just letting the format speak for itself at the moment. But I have, I can obviously do that with the software I have, I can throw in some DJ breaks.
Do you think you will at some point?
I think I may do it for a few hours, have a special show. But for now, at least for the next month or two, I’ve been kind of busy lately, business has been pretty good.
Where do you want this to go in the future?
For now, it’s a unique gimmick. Here’s a guy, he’s a radio ID, imaging voice, does lessons on it and whatnot, and he’s got his own radio station, so you can kind of take a test drive of what he could sound like on your radio station with me talking about every two songs.
So it’s a little bit of a sales tool, but it’s also a fun project?
Right. It serves two purposes. Friends and family have been asking, because you know, we’ll sit around on the patio and we’ll put together a play list. I’ll take requests with just the regular DJ software, the free software, that I have on my laptop. And then a lot of people were saying “Man, you know, you were talking about maybe starting that internet radio station …”
Being in this industry for all these years, you know a thing or two about this kind of music.
Oh, totally. Now with having my own station, I try to keep on top of what’s new that will fit the format. You can kind of get stuck in your ways if you’re not on the air, because you remember all the songs that you played back in the day, back in the late ’70s, ’80s, and the early ’90s, up through the grunge era. But then at some point, when I went totally on my own about 1996, I really wasn’t up on music like I used to be. But I’ve gotten back into it now in the last couple years, just thinking about that station. I was listening to WXRT, probably the station that is closest to mine. When I hear something I go “Oh, that would be perfect for my format.” I just write it down and then I’ll do a big download session and buy the songs and then throw ’em in the queue.
What are other imaging stuff are you doing with national clients these days?
There’s a show during baseball season with the 50 top plays of baseball, it’s called “MLB’s Best” and it runs on Fox Sports 1.
Does your voice change as you get older?
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s gotten a little deeper, raspier, a little more well worn from years of usage.
In your industry, that’s a good thing, right?
Not necessarily, it depends what the client wants. I think back in the days when we were younger, that was a sound everybody wanted. I think about Don LaFontaine that did “In a world …” you know, that classic movie trailer voice. But, in the last 20 years or so it’s kind of changed where they want a guy-off-the-street kind of a sound. But when they want a little bit more of a classic sound, that’s kind of what I fit into, that vintage, dramatic voice. I can really tap into that sound.
But to be quite honest with you, there are times when they want that sound, but the times are changing. I think they want more of just a guy off the street voice. But I mean, you’ve still obviously got to be good. You gotta be able to enunciate and create the emotion that they’re looking for.