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|Date:||8/26/2007 10:12:52 AM|
|Subject:||Tribute to Ron by Ben Fong-Torres|
|Message:||San Francisco Chronicle
Radio Waves by Ben Fong-Torres
Sunday, August 26, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO RADIO JOY: Back in the early '60s, when Ron Lyons was a Top 40 DJ on KEWB, the station called its announcers "Good Guys." And that's exactly what Lyons was. After a battle with cancer, Lyons, 69, died Aug. 3 at a hospital in Medford, Ore.
Lyons had a strong, sharp radio voice and a quick wit but never achieved great fame. Like so many DJs, he bounced from gig to gig, between Sacramento, where he arrived from North Carolina in 1960, and San Francisco, where he worked as a DJ at KEWB, KNBR, KFBK and KNEW before joining KCBS in 1988. Between and alongside jobs, he sold waterbeds and did voice work for a TV station in Sacramento.
But radio was his true love. After 14 years on KCBS as a traffic anchor, he retired to the Oregon coast in 2004. But soon after settling into Gold Beach with his wife, Lana, he found himself back behind the microphone, spinning oldies and yarns about his interviews with Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and others, and about his love of the music of the late Mickey Newbury, who, as Lyons said, "wrote and sang songs that freed my soul as no other."
"He sort of came full circle here in Gold Beach," says his son, Sean Lyons. "He started out on a small station in Asheville, N.C., as a teenager with a show called 'Records With Ronnie.' Forty-eight years later, he retires ... only to do a show every day on KGBR. And while it was called 'The Ron Lyons Show,' it was really just an older and much better version of 'Records With Ronnie.' "
I first heard from Lyons 20 years ago, when, after reading that I was a KEWB fan in my teenage years, he sent me a cassette of the station's classic jingles, some of which ran a languid 60 seconds long ("Nighttime is the right time to listen and enjoy ... K-E-W-B."). It was a typical "good guy" gesture. When, years later, he learned that I, too, was an admirer of Newbury, whose works include "San Francisco Mabel Joy" and "American Trilogy," he enlisted me to help out on his radio tribute to the singer-songwriter. Soon after that, he was off to Oregon.
At KCBS, news anchor Mike Pulsipher remembers Lyons as "a consummate broadcaster. He always sounded up and on, no matter how he felt."
On his own Web site ( www.ronlyonsradio.com), Lyons chronicled his ups and downs, including alcoholism (in the early '70s, he wrote, "Jack Daniels was also my co-producer for quite a few years"), a four-year split from Lana, whom he married in 1964 and remarried in 1980, and numerous losses of jobs. And there was something worse.
"My sister died in 1988 at age 23," Sean Lyons says. "It took a lot of self-discipline not to drink during that time. He was a rock. He spent every day trying to be a better person."
Sean, who works in radio in Oregon as Tom Berlin (Lyons' real surname was Tomberlin), says that his father became disenchanted with the corporate takeover of most of radio.
"He tried to talk me out of going into radio because of the potential brutality," he says. "He'd say (somewhat jokingly), 'Sell coke, run guns ... but don't ever go into radio.'
"He loved the art of radio. He used humor for everything. He thought laughter was healing. He would say that traffic was backed up 'longer than your first marriage,' and call the San Mateo Bridge the S&M bridge."
KCBS sports anchor Steve Bitker recalls Lyons once complaining, "Why don't some of these yuppie commuters park and fax themselves home?"
On his own site, Lyons wrote about juggling traffic reporting, production work, and editing promo spots and commercials.
"A lot of these are 'sexual enhancement' spots," he noted. "I don't object to sex or enhancement, just the poor and leering way they're presented. ... But we do so many of them, I considered putting a sign in the production studio window: 'Viagra Falls.' "
For a fascinating look into the radio biz, check out Lyons' recollections at his site. He often signed off his writings with a thank-you to readers. But it's Lyons who deserved thanks.
His family held a service Aug. 18 in Gold Beach. His friends at KCBS, KNBR and elsewhere are planning a celebration in mid-September in San Francisco.
| Tribute to Ron by Ben Fong-Torres by Ginny G. at 8/26/2007 10:12:52 AM|
| Link to story includes two photos... by Ginny G. at 8/26/2007 8:37:50 PM|