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Premiere Hamilton Musician Steve Powell – Goodbye

steve powell
Steve Powell, with the Big Sky Mudflaps. (Fullerton Photo)
I don’t want to write this next sentence.

Steve Powell died at his home last Friday, April 19. He had fought a long battle with cancer. He was 61. It’s a huge understatement to say he will be missed.

It was easy to get Steve to smile. And when he played with the Big Sky Mudflaps or any other little combo that would get together and jam, he smiled a lot. He was right where he wanted to be, surrounded by the music.

He was a founding member of the Big Sky Mudflaps, one of Montana’s most successful bands – with appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival and NBC’s Today Show, hours of music on Montana Public Radio and countless local performances.

In the early years of the ‘Flaps, I would finish my evening shift at KLYQ and walk across the street to hear and dance to David, Beth, Mike, Chuck, Dexter, Steve and Maureen at Haigh’s Bar in Hamilton. As they grew in popularity, they headlined at the Ravalli County Fair and were booked throughout the Northwest.

However, for me, he was the only guy who could be music director for KLYQ’s four radio specials – the Cavalcade of Stars. The first one was in 1997 and the last one was in 2009. He played the theme for our radio detective series and accompanied almost all the singers in the show. And, throughout the radio mysteries, his piano would provide little musical “stingers” for the major plot developments (with only one rehearsal). I know that one of his favorite moments from the first Cavalcade was bringing the legendary entertainer (and his pal) the late Jean Wroble to the stage. As she played, he watched and grinned.

Most of our Montana musicians are good at multi-tasking. In other words, they have a “day job” to supplement those huge musicians’ salaries. Steve was land surveyor in his day job, and he also had been a Ravalli County Commissioner.

April 11th, the Big Sky Mudflaps played a free concert at the Bitterroot Brewery. Though he was tired, Steve played keyboard throughout the show. Huey Lewis dropped by, sang a couple songs, and paid tribute to Steve. It was a memorable night. The people who were there didn’t want it to stop.

Music was his joy. It was our joy to know him.

—Steve Fullerton

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