The Familiar Voice Of Delilah: A Nighttime Companion On The Radio
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Elsewhere on the radio, you might sometimes listen to this voice.
DELILAH RENE LUKE: Hi, David. Hold on just a second. Let me let my engineer know that we're OK. Hey there. I think everything is good to go.
GREENE: It's very weird hearing your voice right now. I'm used to you being with me on long, lonely drives late at night. So it's...
RENE LUKE: You're listening to "Delilah."
GREENE: Thank you for that (laughter).
That is how Delilah Rene Luke begins her nightly radio show, which is simply called "Delilah." It is syndicated across the country, reaching millions of people, and the format is simple. Delilah takes phone calls from listeners, who share their stories of pain, fear and victories. She gives them advice and dedicates a song to them.
(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "DELILAH")
RENE LUKE: You're bit by the love bug. You sound like a teenager in love.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I feel like one. I'm so - It's like I don't know how to act because I'm always afraid I'm going to do something wrong...
RENE LUKE: Oh, stop.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: ...Because he's just so good to me.
RENE LUKE: Just be yourself, and enjoy the blessings that God's borne out on you. Let me find a song for you. Thank you, dear.
GREENE: A bit of Delilah's show there. The show is both recorded and heard late at night, but when we reached her, Delilah had not even finished her first cup of coffee.
RENE LUKE: You got me in the morning now, and I'm really sassy.
GREENE: Well, good. That is the Delilah I was looking for.
RENE LUKE: Everybody thinks I'm so nice because they hear me so nice at night. And I'm like, no, I'm just tired. I'm exhausted, OK?
GREENE: She's exhausted from taking care of her dozen children, tending to her dozens of farm animals, growing food in her garden - oh, and also doing that nightly radio show. This year marks the show's 20th anniversary - 20 years of talking to strangers about their problems. To look back on how she became one of the most recognized voices on air, we started by asking Delilah about one of her own struggles - living with her father.
RENE LUKE: He was hell-bent on controlling me. And in his mind, he was doing it out of love, to protect me. In my mind, get the heck out of my way. And so I left home the day I graduated high school. We had an argument, and he told me to be home at midnight, and I said no. And so when I did come home, the door was locked. And I had gotten a set of luggage for graduation that day, and it was on the front porch, packed. He thought that he was going to prove a point and I was going to say, oh, I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm sorry. I should've listened to you. And instead, I was like, see you, wouldn't want to be you. And that was that.
GREENE: You were ready to roll.
RENE LUKE: I was ready to roll, and boy did I roll.
GREENE: And then take me to your first marriage and what that did to your relationship with your dad.
RENE LUKE: Well, that - that was - sort of was the nail in the coffin, if you will. My father was a racist. So when I came home with my first husband, who was black, he ran to the gun closet and unlocked his gun, and I was greeted with a gun to my forehead. And he said, you've got to the count of three before I pull the trigger.
GREENE: My God.
RENE LUKE: Yeah. And so I, of course, start, you know, arguing with him (laughter). And my future husband grabbed me by the arm and yanked me out of there and across the street lickety-split.
GREENE: Now, Delilah has been through several divorces. She raised adopted children who were born into difficult circumstances. And she says this resume of life experience is what helps her connect with people.
And what do you get out of those - the conversations with listeners when they call?
RENE LUKE: It's my passion. It's what I do. It's what I love. It's who I am. You know, my kids laugh all the time because when we - you know, I don't go to McDonald's very often, but I do like their Frappuccinos.
GREENE: (Laughter). OK.
RENE LUKE: And so when I drive through, they're like, Mom, how is it that you are talking to the squawk box, having a conversation? I said, well, it's not really a squawk box. It's Terry that works inside there, and she's got three kids, and one of her grandkids was in the hospital. They're like, how do you know this about the drive-thru person? I'm like, it's - it's what I do. It's - it's what I do.
GREENE: You're literally having this conversation over the squawk box as you're ordering the Frappuccino?
RENE LUKE: Over the squawk box - over the squawk box, yeah.
GREENE: How does that conversation start?
RENE LUKE: Well, it starts with starts with, hi, how are you? Are you having a good day? And then they say, well, it's OK. And I say, oh, that doesn't sound good. What's wrong? And then she told me that she has three kids and one of her grandkids had leukemia and they were in the hospital. And, you know, we have this 20-minute conversation, and there's 15 cars behind us.
GREENE: Yeah, remind me not to get in line behind you at McDonald's.
RENE LUKE: You don't get - don't get in line behind me anywhere, honey. It's just not good.
GREENE: (Laughter). And you've been doing the show - the syndicated show - for 20 years now in such a changing landscape. I mean, the Internet now such a big part of everyday lives. People can get advice from almost anywhere. So what do you think is the value that you still bring as a call-in show?
RENE LUKE: Well, people can get advice almost anywhere, but they can't find a companion almost anywhere. And far more than being an advice-giver or somebody who just plays sappy love songs, I really am a companion on the radio at night. You know, like you said, when you heard my voice, it's weird to hear my voice when you're not in a car a long drive. And that's - that's where we're friends. That's where you know me from. You know, we're together. I'm - I'm there with you at night, and I'm there for millions and millions of women at the end of a day after they've done all the chores and all the errands. And they don't have a nanny to help out, and they don't have somebody like my Kim that comes in and helps me with laundry. And they don't have somebody that, you know, they can pay to mow the lawn, so, you know, they're doing all those things by themselves. And at the end of the day. I'm their companion. I'm there to say, you know what? You're going to make it through this. The kids are going to be OK. I know they've got cavities. I know the washing machine broke down. That's OK. You're going to make it through.
GREENE: You, I mean, have to choose the song that we're going to play as we say goodbye.
RENE LUKE: The floor is mine. I would say we got to play "I Did It My Way."
GREENE: Why did that come to mind?
RENE LUKE: Just because you're doing it your way. You're breaking all the rules. I can tell you're not a rule-follower - love that.
GREENE: Ooh, I love that. What rules do you think I'm breaking?
RENE LUKE: Just about everyone you can get away with.
GREENE: Yeah? I feel emboldened now.
RENE LUKE: What was the last rule you broke...
GREENE: Goodness gracious.
RENE LUKE: ...That you can talk about on the radio?
GREENE: I - I - I'm - can I - can we take this off-air? I'm going to call you tonight.
RENE LUKE: Uh-huh, uh-huh (laughter).
GREENE: I'll call you tonight, and we'll talk about this.
RENE LUKE: I believe that rules are necessary for other people.
GREENE: Delilah, congratulations on 20 years, and it's just been such a pleasure. Thank you.
RENE LUKE: Thank you. You have a great day.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY WAY")
FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) And did it my way.
GREENE: Delilah Rene Luke - she's the host of the radio show "Delilah," which celebrates 20 years on air this year. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.