Tom Lyons: Talking No More Than He Feels Necessary
By Edward L. Blank
Press TV-Radio Writer
| "I feel
there are enough talk shows going on in Pittsburgh now," Tom Lyons said,
"so why should I sit there and talk."
"I really feel if I have nothing to say that's going to be of any real interest to anybody, I shut up. Really, I do."
Tom, born Thomas Lee Schrecengost in Ford City, Pa. 36 years ago was considering reasons for keeping the chatter to a minimum on his WTAE-Radio disc jockey show from 7:10 to midnight week days and from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sundays.
"You can say what you want to (on the air) and as much as you want to say. Some guys take advantage of that situation, but end up saying nothing.
"Now not necessarily guys at our station, but I have heard other stations where they feel they have to say something funny, clever, earth-shattering between every record.
"If I have something to say, I say it. I don't get into controversial things. Most of the things I ever talk about are about myself: my big feet or my bald head."
"I feel the more music I can play for people and sound happy, the more I'll let them know I'm happy in what I'm doing. The empathy is there that will give that feeling too."
Tom, who uses no earphones, came to WTAE, a middle-of-the-road station from KQV, where the accent is on Top 40 music, In those days he was known as Tom Lee.
"I would actually be trembling when I got off the air from all this heavy beat stiff," he said snapping his fingers in rhythm a couple of times. "But I like it. I like the music."
"But a six-hour diet of it, playing as much as you can, it can get to you. It really can. But I enjoyed playing rock music."
"But now, with the way music is today, I really don't go for it. I don't care for acid stuff. I don't care for underground stuff..
His favorite is country and western, of which he got plenty of exposure at home from his dad, who tuned in "The Wheeling Jamboree" eveery Saturday Night.
| Tom wasn't
keen on it at first. Then he developed a liking for the sound of the electric
steel guitar, prevalent in such music. "After that, I was sold," he said.
"It just knocked me out."
Ray Price and Buck Owens are two of his favorite singers in that field.
In the competititive world of broadcasting, it's not surprising to find Tom is another of those successful today who showed strong inclinations toward the profession as a boy.
"My mother probably thought I was nuts," he said, "because I used to sit up in my bedroom with old 78 rpm records."
"I would just sit up there and say: 'Well-l-l here's Sammy Kaye and "A Roomful of Roses." and I'd put it on and let the record play through."
"And I would arrange a little thing. It could be a sock or anything, and put it on a stick, and that was my microphone."
He played the trombone in high school, but gave it up when he went to Westminster College on a basketball scholarship.
"I started off in business administration, which is what all the basketball palers were in. I don't know. Maybe that was the easiest for some reason."
"But I didn't get a chance to get through that. Me and accounting didn't work out too well. And that was a prerequisite: you had to have that."
He switched courses, but left school for a job opening at a Kittaning station. Before moving to Pittsburgh in December, 1965, he also worked in Altoona, Erie, New Haven, Conn.; Hamden, Conn,; and Franklin.
Though he's on a late-evening shift now, most of Tom's time at the two local stations was as the all-night deejay. He prefers the current schedule.
"You have a funny feeling when you're working overnight that you may be sitting there talking to yourself," he said.
While his shows are light, they are never outright comic: "I never try to be funny because I'm not funny," he said. "I could blow the best joke in the world because I am not a funny man."
| He was
always a morning drive-time personality in smaller markets, but he
doesn't know if he'd ever work that shift here.
"Morning men, I guess, according to what people say, have to be a little unique in a way. I don't consider myself as being a really unique type of person. I'm fairly straight. I don't use any drop-ins or trickery."
"I think you're a phoney to know everything you're going to say before you go on the air."
Though he declined to be specific about records that don't appeal to him, he did mention three general types he doesn't like, show music (except some of the Henry Mancini and Lalo Schifrin stuff), opera, and "heavy, heavy classical."
"I don't like Broadway shows," he said. "I don't think I'd ever go to a Broadway show or an opera. It's just not me."
He did single out some favorites in the pop music field: Elvis Presley ("I like everything he's recorded") and The Beatles ("probably the only one of the modern rock groups I've been able to stick with").
Also: jazz by Benny Goodman, Harry James and Glenn Miller.
No Melody There
"I don't like any real far-out jazz," he said, "I don't like any kind of music I can't understand. Or if I can't tap my toe to it. That's probably my biggest objection to some of the music today: the psychedlic stuff and so on."
"I can't keep my toe going at a certain tempo to it. And some of the noises they're creating out of guitars and various instruments are just not pleasing to my ear."
"If there is no melody there, I think they just go off on a wild tangent to blow your mind or something. I just can't see it."
"I would not be happy playing that music today. I have to have something that has a melody to it."
"Of course, that's basically for the younger set, and I think after awhilethey'll get a little older and realize:
"What does that music really have to offer me?"