After one year, Midwest nice is creeping into Elvis Duran’s radio patter

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Out radio host Elvis Duran says he can’t really define his secret to success — he’s “just glad someone listens” to him.

Well, more than just someone, to be accurate. Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, Duran’s signature morning program, is currently the top nationally syndicated show in the country, with more than 7 million listeners in over 70 markets, including Milwaukee and Madison, where the show first went on the air a year ago.

The show’s format is similar to most morning radio shows, with Duran and his team of co-hosts dishing about news and entertainment. Duran’s also known for his celebrity interviews, his ability to identify up-and-coming artists early in their careers and, most famously, his “phone taps,” in which he pranks a selected listener’s unsuspecting relative or friend.

Duran’s fame has expanded beyond the studio booth. He has a regular gig on the Today Show talking about his “Artist of the Month,” and he hosted Entertainment Tonight’s live show during the Grammys.

But Duran’s heart has been with the Morning Show ever since it began airing 18 years ago on the New York station WHTZ. It took a few years for the show to expand outside that market. Duran says the turning point came when he realized that he and his co-hosts needed to be more authentic on the air. In the process of loosening up the show to accomplish that goal, the program’s following began to grow, first expanding into Miami and then syndicating in markets on the East Coast and areas further west.

Expanding into the Midwest has had impact on the show. The cultures of Madison, Milwaukee and other Midwestern cities have seeped into the tone of the show, adding a nicer, more wholesome vibe that has, in turn, broadened the show’s appeal.

“Our show is not a New York show now,” Duran says. “It’s such a nice change of pace.”

What makes the show a hit in multiple markets, he says, is that everyone faces the same issues and problems in their lives, and the show provides a forum for talking them out.

After a year, the Morning Show, which airs on WRNW in Milwaukee and WZEE in Madison, is doing well in both markets. Duran says the show took off a bit faster in Madison than Milwaukee.

Duran says he can usually pick out callers from Wisconsin for a reason that has nothing to do with their accent or area codes: They usually want to talk to one of his newest co-hosts, Bethany Watson, who was born and raised in the state. “She has that Wisconsin sense, and they pick up on that,” he says.

Watson is just one of many hosts Duran features. “Our show just keeps growing and growing,” he says, “because we keep meeting people we love who we want to bring into the fold.”

The Morning Show is still produced in New York, but Duran says he likes to travel with the show a few times a month. Often his road trips are to Los Angeles, but he tries to visit other affiliates as well.

Is a trip to Wisconsin in the show’s future? It’s too early for Duran to confirm anything, but all the calls coming in from Wisconsin have convinced him that he’s got to drop in for the State Fair this summer — if he can work out the details. He’s determined to experience the state-fair craze of deep-frying just about everything imaginable, something he’s unlikely to encounter in New York.