Ruth Lyons is an American pioneer of daytime television talk shows. Ruth Lyons is particularly famous for her work on such radio and television programs as Your Sunday Matinee and The 50/50 Club. Likewise, Ruth Lyons accidentally invented the daytime TV talk show and like Arthur Godfrey and others of the era, Lyons built a TV empire.
Table of Biography
Early life and Childhood
Ruth Lyons was born on October 4, 1905, in Cincinnati, Ohio, America. Her full name is Ruth Evelyn Reeves and is under the birth sign, Libra. She was American by nationality.
Ruth is the older daughter of Margaret Keturah Henry and Samuel Spencer Reeves. Her father was a travel agent. He taught music at the University of Cincinnati in the evenings. Likewise, her mother was also a musician. Ruth’s family was a close-knit family with other family members living in the immediate neighborhood. Likewise, the Reeves family was a religious one and many of their activities were based at the local Presbyterian church.
The women of their family had both strong faith and strong determination to provide help wherever it needed. Ruth’s grandmother Reeves was a great influence on her. Her grandmother began her household duties early and when the works completed, she went into the neighborhood to do good deeds. She was a well-read woman with strong opinions and was unafraid to voice them. Moreover, her mother always reminded her daughter to do her best at everything she did. Their family considered books and reading, as well as music, to be as necessary to living as food, clothing, and shelter.
Ruth Lyons’ first public performance was in a grammar school play. When she was twelve years old, she was interested enough in performing to write and produce her own music. Moreover, as a young girl during World War I, Ruth Lyons also involved in fund-raising activities for the Red Cross. She even worked with her minister to help entertain patients at local hospitals.
Furthermore, when she entered East High School, there was a flurry of activities during her time in that school. She also edited the school yearbook. She wrote and composed a school musical, accompanied the Dance Club on piano. And as president of the Kalidasa Club. Likewise, during her freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, she wrote the school musical. She joined Delta Delta Delta sorority and was in charge of the humor section of the college yearbook.
Though Ruth’s parents wanted her to complete college and become a teacher. But she knew about the financial toll her college tuition was taking on the family. Moreover, she left her college studies. And devoted more time to her music, studying piano at the Cincinnati College of Music. Ruth also had a job selling sheet music.
Career and Professional Life
Ruth Lyons had been interested in radio since she was a high school student. Her radio career began with a one-shot appearance as an accompanist for a singer on WMH in the year 1925. And a regular post as a pianist on WSAI beginning in the year 1925. She also went to work full-time at WKRC in the year 1928. By working as a radio show pianist/organist and as the station’s music librarian.
Lyons’ first broadcast was accidental as she pressed into service one morning. It was when the station’s only female show host called in sick. Likewise, she needed only a couple of minutes to become comfortable and familiar with how things handled behind the microphone and took over as host. Moreover, the sponsor preferred the way Lyons handled the program. So, they hired her to replace the host who was ill.
When Ruth began her broadcasting career, she said her audience is intelligent. And they had more interests than the subjects covered by traditional women’s programs. So she focused on topics other than cooking and household hints. Her prestige grew during the Great Flood of 1937, calming listeners and asking for donations for the victims. She even asked her listeners to help flood victims with food, clothing, and money.
Likewise, the Red Cross received $56,000 as a result of Lyons’ radio appeals. And largely because of her efforts during this time of crisis, WKRC’s program director appointed Ruth.
More About Career…
Likewise, while at WKRC, Ruth Lyons hosted a weekly radio show called Your Sunday Matinee. She was an amateur songwriter and wrote a new song for each Sunday broadcast of the show. Also, Bandleader Paul Whiteman was a guest on the show in the year 1938. And Ruth’s songwriting abilities impressed him. So, he also offered to buy some of her original compositions with one stipulation: the music would need to be published under his name. However, Ruth Lyons politely declined.
In the year 1942, WKRC lost Ruth Lyons to Crosley Broadcasting over a ten-dollar raise. Likewise, when Ruth was approached by Crosley Broadcasting, the salary she was offered was ten dollars more than she was making at WKRC. Then she met with station owner Hulbert “Hub” Taft. Taft told her he could not match the sum offered by Crosley so, Lyons then signed with Crosley at first going to work at WSAI and taking 14 sponsors with her.
Likewise, Taft, the head of Taft Broadcasting, later said that the ten-dollar raise had cost his company millions in advertising. Moreover, the Lyons radio and television programs generated more than a million dollars in ad revenue annually for Crosley. When Lyons’ husband became ill with scarlet fever in the year 1943, the couple was confined to their home. So, Crosley considered having Ruth on the air to be important enough to install lines and equipment at their home, so she could broadcast from there until the quarantine was over.
Moreover, Frazier Thomas and Ruth Lyons at WLW Radio’s “Morning Matinee” in the year 1948, taken from a station-issued promotional calendar. Ruth Lyons was the host of Woman’s Hour at WKRC and she also became the host of Petticoat Partyline. It was a program with a similar format, at WSAI.
More About WSAI and WLW…
Likewise, during her career at WKRC, she had never followed a script for her programs. WSAI had a strict policy about writing and adhering to a script for their radio programs. However, Ruth wrote scripts for her shows and read from them for a week before returning to her method of spontaneous conversation.
Likewise, weeks and months went by without any complaints. When she was called to the manager’s office and asked to bring a copy of her program script with her, Ruth Lyons expected to lose her job. But when she entered the office, she admitted she never write and read from a program script for some time. However, the station manager said he was pleased with what she had been doing and that the purpose of the meeting was to offer her an opportunity to work at WLW. And, Lyons also did not like reading commercial copy and preferred to deliver commercials in her own words.
At WLW, Ruth was the host of Consumer’s Foundation, a show where participants tested products advertised on radio and reported their experiences with them. And, she was teamed with Frazier Thomas, on another radio show called Collect Calls From Lowenthal. When Consumer’s Foundation turned into Your Morning Matinee, a morning radio show with music and entertainment targeting female listeners, Thomas became Ruth’s co-host on the program.
Then, after WLW parent company Crosley Broadcasting purchased New York City radio station WINS in the year 1946, the program was also heard over the station for two years. Ruth Lyons and Thomas co-hosted the show until he left to establish his own media production firm. Likewise, she continued as the host of the program until 1951 when she was advised by her doctor to cut back her workload.
The 50/50 Club began on WLW Radio as “The 50 Club”. And, fifty women were invited to a daily, one-hour lunch which was broadcast live. The program was Ruth Lyons’ idea and it went on the air on February 5, 1946. And, even though she was hesitant about working on television, the show made its television debut on WLWT in May 1949. However, she did not like the hot lights and the cameras which seemed to be everywhere.
But after seeing herself on camera, Ruth realized she needed to slim down to look attractive on television. So, along with the weight loss, she formulated her own set of rules for her television show. And, since her programs were impromptu, those working with her learned to expect almost anything and to make any necessary adjustments.
Then, the program was later simulcast on WLW AM. Ruth also became the program director of the television station in September 1949. Likewise, she was the only woman on the Crosley Board of Directors. Moreover, the show was a powerful outlet for advertisers and potential sponsors had a one-year waiting period before there were openings for their commercials to be able to be scheduled. And, the mentions of a product name on the program meant stores would quickly be sold out of the item.
Ruth Lyons was also powerful enough to be able to decide which products were advertised on her programs. She also selected those sponsors whose products she used and turned down commercials for products she did not like. Likewise, Ruth was also able to resolve differences between WLWT management and the local musician’s union before the disagreement turned into a walkout. She even stated that she considered herself one of the musicians and intended to walk the picket line with them if the dispute was not settled.
More About “The 50 Club”…
Station management met the musician’s demands to ensure Ruth Lyons would remain on the air. Her willingness to both advise and to become involved in problems earned her the nickname “Mother” from her co-workers and fans. Likewise, NBC was aware of Ruth’s ability to sell her sponsor’s products and hoped to have Lyons do the same for their network. Then, in the year 1951, NBC contracted with Crosley to carry a half-hour of The 50 Club on the NBC television network for three years, beginning on October 1, 1951.
Ruth Lyons bristled under the structured advertising, network time cues, and loss of show control. She also did not want to relocate to New York so, at the end of the first year, the contract was canceled and the program was no longer seen on national television. And, New York-based media critic John Crosby was highly critical of the Ruth Lyons programs on NBC.
Furthermore, the program was renamed “The 50/50 Club” when the audience was expanded to 100 people in the year 1953. It was seen on the other stations of the Crosley Broadcasting network in Dayton, Columbus, and Indianapolis, and the program was also expanded from its original hour to ninety minutes in length. Likewise, the program visited the other cities and it was seen in at least once a year so that local viewers could have the opportunity for tickets to see the show done live.
In the year 1957, Cincinnati’s mayor, Charles Taft, proclaimed a “Ruth Lyons Day”. The event, held at the city’s Taft Theatre, was a much larger venue than WLWT provided for its daily 50-50 Club, however, it was unable to provide seating for the 100,000 ticket requests it received. Also, the show was the top-rated daytime television program in the US from 1952 to 1964 and the first program in the Cincinnati market to be broadcast in color in the year 1957. Then, during this time, Ruth and the program were profiled in many national magazines such as McCall’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Cosmopolitan.
The 50-50 Club
Moreover, NBC made another attempt to bring Ruth Lyons to the network. She was also invited to be a temporary replacement for The Today Show cast member Helen O’Connell for a week in April 1958. Then, both Cincinnati media and viewers remembered the stinging criticism from the Crosby column and were prepared to see any slight, intentional or not, as an insult to Ruth Lyons and their area.
Likewise, the Cincinnati Enquirer printed that Ruth made only two short appearances on one Today broadcast and read a commercial while hidden by foliage on the set on a later show. She then received much mail from her fans saying she was badly treated while in New York. Then, Ruth’s answer was to explain that the Today program’s format was different from that of “The 50/50 Club” and that she never expected to be talking with people on the Today show as she did on her own television program.
Furthermore, guests included Bob Hope, Arthur Godfrey, and pianist Peter Nero. During the 1950s, when nightclub venues were numerous throughout the nation, two of the most prominent in the country were the Beverly Hills Supper Club and the Lookout House which were located in the Northern Kentucky area of Greater Cincinnati. Likewise, virtually every headliner, including Jack E. Leonard, Nelson Eddy, Ted Lewis, Pearl Bailey, Myron Cohen, and many others, appeared on Ruth Lyons’ program.
Moreover, musical guests had to perform live as Lyons permitted no pre-recorded music and lip sync on her program. Ruth had two trademarks: concealing her microphone in a bouquet of flowers and the white gloves she and her studio audience wore while singing “The Waving Song”, as they waved to the viewers at home. Also, her practice was not to meet her program’s guests before airtime so the conversations would be spontaneous. And, Ruth Lyons frequently mentioned her husband and daughter on the show, in a warm, light (often humorous), family context.
Late Years and Retirement
The mid-1960s were a time of illness and sorrow for Ruth Lyons and her family as well. She had maintained close ties with her younger sister Rose and her sister died in the year 1964 after a ten-year battle with cancer. Ruth then suffered a minor stroke in December 1964 and had to take a leave of absence from her television program. Then, in January 1965, there was another family medical crisis, 20-year-old Candy discovered a lump in her breast which turned out to be malignant. She then underwent surgery and radiation by September and she was well enough to join the cast of The 50-50 Club on a permanent basis.
Likewise, in early 1966, it became apparent that Candy’s illness was now terminal so, she wanted to return to Europe one last time. Then, the Newman family left New York in early June. And, when they arrived in Italy, Candy was quite ill and hospitalized. Then they began preparations for their return to the US on June 14. However, on June 19, 1966, Candy died aboard the ship.
Ruth Lyons took an extended leave from her television program beginning in February 1966 due to her daughter’s illness and subsequent death. She did not return to her show until October. Ruth wanted to raise money for the Christmas fund in her daughter’s memory and decided to take things a day at a time.
Death and More
Likewise, those close to Ruth Lyons say Candy’s death took the life out of her as well. Also, there were times when Ruth was unable to do her program and when she did, it was sometimes difficult to understand what she was saying.
Then, on January 26, 1967, “The 50-50 Club” had just gone off the air when Ruth Lyons told her co-host, Bob Braun, that she had now done her last television program. So, Braun began a later afternoon show of his own, “The Bob Braun Show”, a few days before and was working with Lyons until a replacement was available. Likewise, a public announcement was on the program the next day with a statement from Ruth to her viewers saying she was no longer able to continue hosting the show.
Moreover, Braun then became the host of the program and Lyons never appeared on television again. Furthermore, in 1969, Ruth published her memoirs entitled “Remember With Me”. And, even though she was off the air for more than two years prior to its publication, the book sold 90K copies. Likewise, over time, her health steadily declined. She started suffering a series of strokes in the 1970s and again in the 1980s. And then, for the last three and one-half years prior to her death, Ruth was bedridden and took her last breath on November 7, 1988.
Legacy and Honors
The Ruth Lyons Christmas Fund began in the year 1939. It still provides Cincinnati-area hospitalized children with toys, Christmas decorations, and even needed hospital equipment. Then, after a visit to the children’s ward of a local hospital, she realized the young patients had nothing to make their stay more pleasant. She also spoke about this on her radio program. And began fundraising to provide hospitalized children with toys and some Christmas cheer at the holiday time.
Ruth Lyons also began raising money for the fund on her programs each year on her birthday. She even wrote Christmas songs that performed on the programs and recorded to benefit the fund. However, after Lyons’ retirement in the year 1967, her co-host, Bob Braun, became the host of “The 50-50 Club” and took over the fundraising duties.
Moreover, since the beginning, the fund has raised tens of millions of dollars. David Letterman, who watched “The 50/50 Club” with his mother while home from school at lunch break, credits Ruth Lyons with teaching him everything about live talk television. Furthermore, the City of Cincinnati honored her years of service to the community by naming a downtown street “Ruth Lyons Lane” in her honor in the year 1983.
Moreover, Ruth Lyons’ life and work are the subject of a 2009 book, “Before Oprah: Ruth Lyons, the Woman Who Invented Talk TV ” and a 2012 documentary, “Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Television”. Also, the documentary won several local Emmy Awards. Then, in the year 2011, an Ohio Historical Marker placed near the site of the home on Tusculum Avenue where Lyons lived with her parents.
Relationship Status and Personal Life
During Ruth Lyons’ school years, her family moved five times. A move just after her high school graduation brought them to Cincinnati’s Tusculum Avenue where the Lyons family also lived. Likewise, Johnny Lyons was charming and handsome and was “the heart-throb of Tusculum Avenue”. Ruth and Johnny became a couple not long after the Reeves family had moved into the neighborhood. And, after an eight-year courtship, they married in the year 1932.
Then, after the couple was together for two years after marriage, the insurance agency that Johnny worked for closed its Cincinnati office. He then got a promotion to insurance underwriter and an opportunity to relocate to the company’s Cleveland office. He also expected that his wife would leave WKRC to join him in Cleveland. However, Ruth did not want to leave her radio work. She also believed she had obligations to her parents which would keep her in Cincinnati. So, she moved back into her parent’s home while Johnny moved to his new job in Cleveland.
Furthermore, the couple kept their marriage going for some years with weekend visits, but they eventually grew apart. Ruth became a very popular radio personality in Cincinnati while Johnny later transferred to New York and Chicago. Likewise, she filed for divorce in April 1939. But she did not do so until after the death of her mother in 1938 because she said her mother did not “consider divorced women respectable”. Moreover, her husband was now working in Milwaukee and did not contest the divorce.
After the divorce, in the year 1942, she met a Unitarian minister whose name is Herman Newman. They met at a benefit concert. Herman later became a professor of English at the University of Cincinnati. He maintained an identity separate from the program and his wife’s celebrity.
Then, shortly after their meeting, Crosley approached Ruth with the offer for a ten dollar salary increase and Newman advised her to accept the offer. The couple married on October 3, 1942. Likewise, in the year 1944, Ruth Lyons gave birth to a stillborn daughter. Then, they adopted a baby girl who was born at the hospital two days earlier as Ruth’s doctor suggested.
Moreover, the adoption remained a private matter for many years. Candace Laird Newman made her first visit to WLW when she was six weeks old. Then, she continued to appear on radio and television periodically while growing up.
The body measurements of Ruth Lyons such as height, weight, chest size, waist size, and hip size are not available at the moment. However, she was a beautiful woman both by personality and face as well. Likewise, she has blonde hair and green eyes.
Social Media and Net Worth
Ruth Lyns didn’t own any social media accounts. As at that time, no social accounts were famous or even in use properly. So, she also didn’t use it. Moreover, according to trendcelebsnow, she had a net worth of $1million-$5 million.