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'Montana's home of rock and roll': Family-owned radio station celebrating nearly 30 years in Red Lodge

FM 99.3
Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 28, 2023

RED LODEG - For nearly 30 years, FM 99.3 The Mountain, a family-owned radio station, has been broadcast from downtown Red Lodge.

The radio station is owned and operated by brothers Leslie and Jeff Oliphant, whose history in radio dates back to when their father ran a station when they were kids in Dillon.

Leslie, also known as Les King on their morning talk show called "The Dawn Patrol", said it's an uncommon occupation but one that his family loves.

"It's been fun," Leslie said. "It's a little different. Someone that owns a store, it's nothing like owning a radio station."

While nearing 30 years of existence is quite an accomplishment, both Leslie and Jeff admit that it hasn't always been easy.

"There are no businesses that are around for 30 years, really," Leslie said. "Especially in radio, because radio comes and goes."

Oliphant Brothers

"I'll tell you what, it's very hard being just a ma-and-pa-owned radio station and having to try and compete with bigger ones with more resources," Jeff said.

Yet the Oliphant brothers have taken their small radio station and turned it into something special. Leslie said his favorite part is offering a service to the community.

"You're basically a volunteer when you're in the radio business," Leslie said. "No matter what you do, you're helping other people out and that's what it feels like we're doing here."

Jeff said that working with family can be tricky, but he and his older brother have managed to do so in a positive way.

"It's like anything. It can be good, and it can be difficult," Jeff said. "Really, what's important is the love I have for my brother and that he has for me."

A big part of the station's success comes from its live morning show, which partners Les King with TJ or Teresa Oliphant. She and Les King don't just host a radio show; they've been married for 43 years.

"She's the ear candy," Leslie said. "I'm the steady one, and she's the funny one."

Leslie and Teresa

"People will say, 'You guys are together all of the time,'" Teresa said. "But for the most part, we enjoy it, and when we aren't together, I miss him."

While Jeff has been instrumental to their business and in charge of sales for the radio station, he's also played a big role in his big brother's love life, introducing him to his future wife many years ago.

"Teresa and I were just really good friends," Jeff said. "Sort of like brother and sister. So, when Leslie came back from college I just introduced them."

"His brother didn't seem that interested at first," Teresa said. "I was kind of like, 'What the heck?' But then he asked me out finally."

From then on, the rest is history. Teresa and Leslie spend every morning on their radio station together. She said the days can sometimes be hard, but they are always worth it.

"It's been a long time, and sometimes I'm like, 'It's a sell day,'" Teresa said. "But it becomes a part of you and you become very protective of it."

Now, almost 30 years later, the Oliphant brothers admit that the station has grown more than they ever could have imagined. Jeff said they both owe all of their success to their father.

"My father is the one who financially put this thing together," Jeff said. "If it weren't for him and his legacy, we wouldn't be here. Not only did he influence me personally, he's a big reason why we're here."

As for the station's future, there isn't an end in sight, and that's fine for Teresa, who knows she's in it for the long haul.

"How much longer will we be here? I don't know," Teresa said. "That'll be up to the owners, of course. But I know that I'll be here until the end."