KLQP in far west Minnesota marks 40 years as independent radio station with a local focus
The Madison, Minnesota, station is unabashedly local, featuring high school sports, talk shows with local guests and community news.
MADISON, Minn. — It was 40 years ago at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1983, that Maynard Meyer and business partner Terry Overlander flipped the switch and put KLQP Radio on the airwaves in Madison, Minnesota.
Today, it is among a shrinking number of owner-operated, independent radio stations in Minnesota that are not part of a larger group or chain of stations.
It is still all about local: Live sports coverage of area high school teams remains the station's bread and butter, said Meyer.
KLQP continues to broadcast live on site at all of the big events, whether it's an ice fishing derby on Del Clark Lake by Canby, the county fair in Madison or a high school danceline competition in Dawson.
And the station provides its own talk radio: Meyer hosts two weekday talk shows featuring local health professionals and regularly welcomes local guests to chat about their work or projects.
Most important of all is the early morning local news and community billboard. Meyer will read the full obituaries of those who have died on air, making sure the survivors and local connections are noted. He will air the pleas to find missing cats and dogs — or even car keys. And, of course, he will announce the warnings and cancellations when blizzards whip the prairie into a white blur like mashed potatoes.
“It still works,” said Meyer of his station’s unabashed local focus. “We still have sponsors, people still listen.”
And people still love it, as Overlander can attest. He said he continues to hear from people who tell him much they enjoy the station and its local programming, even though he has now retired. Overlander sold his interest in the radio station to Meyer a couple of years ago. He wanted more time to enjoy his passions of cooking, gardening, hunting and fishing, he explained.
“The radio and civic activities are Maynard’s hobbies,” Overlander said, laughing.
Meyer admits as much. He’s on the Madison City Council and Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He serves on the boards of a local foundation and arts council. He oversees operations of the city-owned Grand movie theater he was instrumental in saving years ago. He also continues to emcee many community events.
“I haven’t really cut back. I keep telling myself I should do that,” said Meyer, laughing.
At age 70, he has no retirement plans. “Retire, and do what? I don’t hunt, fish or garden,” he said.
He and Overlander were childhood friends who grew up and attended school in Benson. Overlander’s father was manager of the Benson radio station, and Meyer’s dad worked there part time as its engineer. Meyer started working at the station while in high school before heading on to Moorhead State University and earning a degree in mass communication.
He worked for stations in Sauk Rapids and Morris and helped start a station in Colorado before returning to Minnesota. He and Overlander started KLQP with backing from their fathers.
Meyer said he took out a road atlas and plotted out available frequencies before submitting the paperwork to the Federal Communications Commission to have 92.1 assigned to Madison. Today, Meyer said frequencies are way too expensive for most young entrepreneurs.
They launched the station during the farm crisis. Rural storefronts were being shuttered. Office manager Kris Kuechemeister joined the staff 39 years ago against the advice of her father. He told her that he didn’t expect the new station to be around for long.
“We probably succeeded where others would have failed because we had a lot of connections,” said Meyer.
Their upbringing in radio and in Benson meant that he and Overlander knew a lot of business owners and potential advertisers in the 60-mile radius of the station’s 20,000-watt signal.
Meyer also attributes the station’s ongoing success to his fellow workers. Paul Raymo went from part time to full time in 2011 and handles the majority of the sports and other off-site broadcasting duties along with selling advertising. Kuechemeister handles the office and financial duties as the other full-time employee. The station also has a number of part-time workers who pitch in with broadcasting and in-station duties.
Meyer's contributions to the importance of local broadcasting have not gone unnoticed. He was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2011.
The station continues to enjoy good support from businesses in its home turf, which includes both Madison and Dawson, as well as beyond, according to Meyer. Streaming on the internet has expanded the station’s reach, he pointed out. Along with regular coverage of Dawson-Boyd and Lac qui Parle Valley High School sports, the station also broadcasts sports for area communities, including Canby, Minneota and Ortonville.
There are fewer locally owned, small-town businesses in rural communities today than when the station opened, and that makes it tougher for all local media outlets, said Meyer. Some of the corporate-owned, chain businesses that have put themselves in small towns have only limited budgets for local advertising and some, none at all, he pointed out.
The radio industry also has seen a growing trend toward chain ownership since KLQP began broadcasting. There are about 25 owner-operated, independent or stand-alone FM or FM/AM stations, like KLQP, among the roughly 300 members in the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, according to Tim Hyde, director of operations and member services for the organization. But he also points out there are 180 independent systems with multiple stations, such as Hubbard Broadcasting, serving the state.
Providing a local voice and local content remains as important today as it was in 1983 when he started, according to Meyer. Overlander concurs. Communities lose some of their identity when the local voice is lost, he said.
Both know that many of their listeners keep their radios tuned to KLQP through the day. It's local news and mix of country and popular music is a constant backdrop heard in homes and businesses alike throughout the day.
For those who might snicker that all local news is humdrum, Meyer admits this. He’s had days when the bake sale at the Methodist Church can be the top story.
But he can also look back at a long line of big, breaking stories. He can offer first-hand accounts on everything from the tense foreclosure auctions held on the steps of the Lac qui Parle County Courthouse during the farm crisis to the fire that destroyed the Madison High School in 1987.
Last June, he and Raymo were outside capturing video as a storm packing two twisters bore down on the town.
Normally, KLQP marks its anniversary each year by offering free coffee and doughnuts at the station. This year, Meyer said he decided they should have “a little bigger deal.”
The party held Tuesday afternoon — on the Jan. 31 anniversary — featured live music and free barbecues at the Madison VFW.
“I figure I might not be here for another 40 (years),” he said.