The voice of KTUI radio, John Rice, has retired after 53 years behind the microphone. John has reported the local news, weather, sports and obituaries, announced football, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, baseball, parades and band competitions for local schools, emceed multiple community events and fundraisers, broadcasted at the Meramec Community Fair and Gasconade County Fair and hosted live remotes in Sullivan, Bourbon, St. Clair, Owensville and New Haven.
His voice is known throughout Franklin, Crawford and Washington counties. As of Feb. 15, John has given his voice and on-air personality of “Little John” a well-deserved break.
John has been on-air since age 11. His on-air debut was a commercial for a furniture store in St. Clair. From this commercial, he began helping his dad, KTUI owner and on-air personality, with local fair broadcasting.
“John’s acquaintance with radio came early when he tagged along with his dad and Mort to community events and fairs where they broadcast live,” said Wilma Scott, retired, longtime employee of KTUI. “His part (at about age 11) was often to carry and load equipment, but occasionally he faced a live mic when Dad wandered off on break.”
After graduating Sullivan High School and spending some time in college, John began getting paid to do commercials, news, sports and on-air shows.
“He read too fast and lost his place, and his pronunciations were sometimes hilarious, but he kept at it,” Wilma recalled. “He listened to network news and remembered names and places which helped smooth out his delivery. Except for a few words like media and median that he still misuses, and foreign names in politics and sports that we all have trouble with, John can read off news in nothing flat.”
As a former high school football player, John started broadcasting Sullivan football games live on KTUI. Beginning in 1978, former SHS graduate and football player Mike McCulloch joined John in the broadcast booth.
John has been the voice of Sullivan football for 45 years.
Mike remembers one particular football game in Union. “Union started a new tradition of shooting off this loud cannon. We had no idea. So, when they scored their first touchdown, they shot off their cannon. The next thing I know, I look over at John, and he is hiding under the counter next to me. It took me awhile to coax him back out. Luckily, they didn’t score too many more times that night. But, every time they did, John was under the counter.”
John purchased KTUI AM and FM radio station from his family in 1979. During his ownership, John added programming to the lineup. In 1981, John started a popular Saturday morning program with area coaches, “Sports Talk.”
“John’s Saturday morning sports show has been a staple for sports enthusiasts for years,” said Coach Dino McKinney, Sullivan High School boys basketball and golf coach. “It was nice to hear from area coaches about last night’s game and how their season is going. John made the interview so easy, it was like talking to a friend at the water cooler in the morning.”
In 1998, John Davis, owner of Fidelity Communications, offered to purchase KTUI and expand the broadcasting from radio only to include television. With this purchase, KTUI radio changed to Fidelity Broadcasting and Fidelity Local 6.
John’s career as a broadcaster switched from an on-air radio broadcaster only to include on-screen TV personality. The morning show, local sports and community events now air live or tape-delayed on four Fidelity channels — 6, 73, 95 and 406.
John has been an asset to the community — volunteering many hours to organizations, charities and clubs throughout the area. He was a recipient of the Sullivan Area Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year Award and the 1996 Ambassador Award. He has also won many awards not only from the radio industry but also from his peers, including the 1996 Missouri Community College Association’s Media Award of Excellence and the Sullivan Rotary Club Community Service Award.
His community involvement is proof of his commitment to the Sullivan area. John delivered Meals on Wheels every week for the Sullivan Community Center and was a member of Sullivan Rotary Club and the Meramec Community Fair, serving on the Fair Board.
Between them, John and his wife Nancy have eight children and five grandchildren. In his free time, he enjoys riding his horses and camping at every opportunity.
John and Nancy plan to remain in Sullivan and visit family more often when retired.