Mike Soileau Has Built His Radio Career On A Devotion To His Community

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Mike Soileau Has Built His Radio Career On A Devotion To His Community

Mike Soileau is the quintessential Type A person. He’s always on go. He’s never pressed the snooze button. He doesn’t drink coffee. He doesn’t need to.

When this dynamo walks into a room, if his aura of action doesn’t get people’s attention, his 6-foot 5-inch height and his booming voice definitely will. When I first met the longtime radio announcer, I briefly asked myself the irrational question “why does he need a microphone?”

Soileau was born in Lake Charles in what was known at the time as St. Patrick’s Hospital.  

In his early childhood, Soileau followed his father around the country and the globe as David Soileau went to the locations that are often home to those pursuing a military career. Son Mike began both kindergarten and first grade in Berlin. When Dave returned to the states and left the military, his wife worked selling ads for radio station KAOK-AM, which was then housed in the present location of Rosewood on 15th Street.

His father worked as a deputy for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office. But Mike also saw his Dad at the radio station, as Dave anchored KAOK’s Cajun music show on Saturdays from 8 to 9 am.

Mike and his dad, Dave Soileau

As time passed, Soileau’s father developed serious health problems. One day, when Dad was having a downturn, he asked his son to go in and do the show. Although Mike expressed some hesitation, his father insisted that he already knew how to do everything. 

Thus it was that Mike Soileau began his radio announcing career at a very early age. Two weeks after his graduation from high school, he took on the job permanently. After graduation, he proceeded to study at McNeese State University. While at the school, he worked three different jobs. He was a radio MC in the early morning, worked in a local restaurant in the afternoon, and did DJ duties at local venues at night.

‘He Was My Idol, Man’

After college, Mike Soileau spent 10 years working in the Calcasieu Parish Sherriff’s Dept., gradually rising to the rank of Senior Corporal FTO. (A Field Training Officer is an experienced officer who drives a beginner around in a squad car, gradually explaining and demonstrating how the job is done.) 

During the period, Soileau always worked part-time in radio. He left the sheriff’s department in 2003, and has been working full-time in the radio business ever since.

A radio man who also worked as a law enforcement agent. Was Mike Soileau consciously trying to follow in his father’s footsteps? “It just happened,” he says. “He’s the greatest man I ever knew. He was my idol, man.”

He also gives his father high marks for teaching him much of what he knows about music.

Mike and his wife Christie

Taking Care Of The Community

Although Mike Soileau is primarily known as the voice of Gator 99.5, where he holds down the 6 to 10 am slot, in his 34-year stretch of radio work, he’s also emceed at 1400 KAOK AM and 92.9 The Lake. These radio ventures all operate under the auspices of TownSquare Media.

Of course, it’s been many a long year since every radio station had a morning emcee. For those that still have one, an announcer who’s in a morning slot will often offer news, weather and commentary for listeners. Since he has to locate and collate the news stories he wants to use for the day, Soileau’s work actually begins before 6 am.

Like many radio announcers, he mans the mic at a good number of area events. He’s an annual emcee at the Rabbit Festival in Iowa and the Marshland Festival. He works on behalf of Brennan’s Blessings and Colors for a Cause (which provides financial help for children with cancer in the Greater Calcasieu area). He regularly does work for the St. Jude’s children’s cancer research effort, and maintains that a Tour of St. John’s hospital in Memphis “will change your life.”

In addition to charitable work, Soileau also throws a Super Bowl party and organizes and emcees a Lundi Gras concert.

Soileau’s out-of-the-office work becomes especially tough for him (or for anyone in media) in the annual festival period. The temperatures are grueling and the festivals come fast on the heels of each other. But, he says, “it’s a fun job.

and I get to do it here in my home town.”

Mike with his kids

“I’m going to take care of this community,” says Soileau. The strongest evidence in support of that sentiment is the response Gator 99.5 has made to this millennium’s hurricanes. When Laura made landfall, the earliest the station could get back on the air was 2 pm the same day. After that the staff worked from 6 am to 7 pm daily. They talked about storm relief options and weather reports 13 hours a day. “We lived at the station,” says Soileau.

They had done the same thing 15 years earlier with Hurricane Rita. 

Even though a number of area stations function under the Townsquare umbrella, Gator 99.5 “is a local radio station,” says Soileau. “The people who work in this station are all from here.”

In 2018, Soileau was inducted into the French Music Assoc. Hall of Fame. If you go into the association’s building at 3481 E. Prien Lake Road, you’ll see that Soileau’s picture hangs right next to that of his late father’s.

It’s Not About The Voice 

What does Soileau have to say about the art of attracting and keeping a radio audience? For one thing, it’s not about the voice; it’s a matter of whether the announcer has something real to say. Announcers who try to speak in the sort of deep dramatic voice that game show emcees use may get work at radio stations, but they won’t build devoted followings. “Nobody will listen to you,” says Soileau. “They don’t relate to you.” 

Soileau likes to tell his listeners “true stories” from his life: things that have actually happened to him; perhaps something as simple as having someone crash his cart into yours at Walmart. “I want it to be true and authentic,” he says. If it is, then it’s likely that a fair number of listeners will have had the same or a similar experience.

“Radio is like the theater of the mind,” says Soileau. The more he can portray his personal experiences as things that could happen to everyone — or at least things that everyone can relate to — the more deeply the listeners will respond and get involved.

Of course, it helps to like to talk. “I will never not talk to anybody,” says Soileau.

The Journey Ends Here

In all forms of media and journalism, it’s typical to assume people are in the process of moving up to a bigger and better venue. As Soileau says, radio announcers are “journeymen.” 

But he says he “has no desire to live anywhere else … We love it here … I’ve gotten to do the coolest things … Our families and friends are here … I love my people.”

Retirement? It’s probably a long way off. If ever one met a person who is ill-suited for retirement, Soileau is that person. “What am I going to do?” he says. “I lead a busy life. I don’t stay home very long.”

Mike with Reba McEntire in 1993

Mike with Luke Bryan

Mike with Jason Aldean

Mike with Kenny Rogers

Mike with Wayne Toups

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