KLYQ Radio Starts Its 60th Year Broadcasting
At 5:58 a.m. February 4th, 1961, KLYQ Radio brought AM broadcasting to the Bitterroot Valley. Stan Hooper and Luin K. (Dex) Dexter had been working with Hamilton business people for about two years to get Federal Communications Commission approval for Hamilton's first radio station. Until then, the closest station was in Missoula.
In late November, 1960, the FCC granted a construction permit. Dex and Stan ordered wire that needed to be buried in the ground around the AM tower. When it arrived, the ground had frozen solid. So, it took until February to get all the technical issues settled. They received permission to broadcast and went on the air Friday, February 3rd, for a general test at 1 p.m. Dex, who was the chief engineer, said there were a few problems that were fixed during the five hours they were on the air. They were ready for the real thing.
Saturday, February 4th, KLYQ started its programming of M.O.R. (Middle Of the Road) music, featuring catalog of easy listening songs, featuring many of what are now called American Standards. They had tunes from the Ray Coniff Singers (Google it, kids), Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and many more, plus regular newscasts.
The station started its life at 980 on the radio dial as a "daytime" station, meaning it could only operate during daylight hours. A brief technical note - AM radio signals at the low end of the AM scale (in the 900 kilocycle range) travel much farther than those in the 1400 end of the frequencies, especially at night, when the stronger signals could interfere with stations many miles away. It's just physics. So, sign-off time changed every month and in the short daylight hours of December, KLYQ had to sign-off before 5 p.m. Even now, stations like KGVO-AM Radio in Missoula have to lower their power at night, after sunset.
So, on that first day, KLYQ signed off at 6 p.m. after the sun had set. George Solander signed on at 6 a.m. and Dan Hoffman was on the air from 12 noon to 6 p.m. The broadcast studio was on the 100 block of South 2nd Street, under the roller drome (but that's another story).
Dex and Stan made sure that KLYQ would always broadcast Hamilton High School sports and games of other valley teams, too. But during the winter "daylight" times, the games started after they had signed off for the day. So, they would take a big ol' bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder to the gym and record their play-by-play of the evening game, which would be aired the following morning.
By the end of the 1960s, they switched the frequency to 1240 on the AM dial, which allowed them 24-hour broadcasting. The initial years at 1240 had their broadcast day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Years later, they made the switch to 24 hours a day, where we are today.
Throughout 2021, we will be sharing the history of KLYQ. We have lots of reel-to-reel tapes with the interviews, events and actual "on air" recordings of the early days of Hamilton's own radio station. Most of those features will be on the Friday "Event Show" broadcasts which airs from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on 1240 AM radio, at www.klyq.com and on that free KLYQ app on your cell phone. It's a Happy 60th Birthday year for KLYQ.