Voice of the Bitterroot: KLYQ’s Fullerton retires

Steve Fullerton wraps up his last Events Show on KLYQ Radio by community members singing to him in celebration of 55 years of broadcasting, 50 of those years in the Bitterroot Valley. Doug McConnaha for the Ravalli Republic

By Michelle Mcconnaha


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Thursday is Steve Fullerton’s last day in the radio business.

He is retiring.

Fullerton has been in the broadcasting business for 55 years with 50 of those on the Bitterroot air-waves at KLYQ.

He started his radio career at KLYQ as an intern while he was in high school in 1969. He worked part-time on the radio in college, then full-time in Missoula for a couple of years before returning to the Bitterroot Valley. 

“They offered me the news directorship and FM programming directorship and I took it,” Fullerton.

He took a break to be the editor of the Ravalli Republic for two years in 1984 and 1985.

“I needed to try my hand and the journalism degree I earned at the University of Montana,” Fullerton said. “There have been some hard times, sometimes tougher times but I’ve always had amazing people to work with. I’m really lucky.”

He listed “the Voice of the Valley” George Solander as a mentor.

“He was the morning newscaster, and he was one of the first announcers when the station went on the air in 1961,” Fullerton said. “I always wished to sound as great as him but nobody could sound as good as him. He was really good.”

The Event Show, where community members come on the radio and talk — live — about upcoming events in the Bitterroot Valley, has been going strong for 23 years.  

“Mary Borden and I started that in 2000,” Fullerton said. “She was one of the movers and pushers for getting it going. Her sense of humor was top-notch. She was part of the morning show we had in the 1990s and 2000s. We had a three-person morning show and it was a kick in the butt. We had a good time. It was fun to listen to and also informative. I’ve always thought that the more people on the air doing good radio the better the show.”

At that time KLYQ was located upstairs on North Third Street.

“Mary and I had to drive over to the Bitterroot River Inn and we had a remote unit and took over the couches in the lounge,” Fullerton said. “That’s where we started the event show. Then we moved to the bottom floor there and it was really easy to do the Event Show there.”

KLYQ moved to its current location on U.S. Highway 93.

Fullerton said the best times for him were when there were “lots of people doing radio” with him. He enjoyed the Event Show tremendously. Some people were nervous to talk live on the air so he’d coach them through.

“You have to ignore the microphone in front of you,” Fullerton said. “You have to just make it a conversation. When I saw someone come in with their eyes wide open and they were breathing hard. I’d say, ‘Just relax it is just you and me talking.’ If they’d leave and were smiling, then I have succeeded. They got the information out and it didn’t hurt.”

Fullerton’s last live Event Show was on Friday, August 25. Appreciative community members came to praise him and to sing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

“You don’t invite Don Matlock and expect a song not to be sung somewhere along the line,” Fullerton said. “I was flattered by what people were saying. The people are what have kept me in the job.”

Even though Fullerton is retiring from the radio he will still announce the Fair Parade, and Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce Awards show, and where the community still needs him. He plans to dabble in writing and cartooning.

KLYQ was purchased over a year ago by Anderson Broadcasting based in Polson.

Fullerton said the radio station will continue.

“Polson has some interesting ways of keeping the valley informed of what is going on,” he said. “I don’t know what is going to happen. They are community-involved in Polson and in Missoula. They have expanded their small staff when they went from five to 11 stations overnight. They had to play catch up, but they are working on it.” 

He summarized 55 years in 50 words, or so:

“The best radio that I’ve been a part of involves the community,” Fullerton said. “Radio is people. You can’t just have music and news stories; you have to also have humanity. We have had some of the best people working at this radio station and I’ve interviewed some of the best people I know. It has made me want to come back day after day.”

For 55 years.

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