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EBENEZER – An introvert in an extroverted world.
A deliberate, thoughtful, conversational style of delivery.
A radio show that evolved into something way beyond simple music or talk.
Greg Lyons isn’t merely the human being – the voice, the personality, the face – behind The Lyons Den. He is The Lyons Den.
Lyons is retiring from local radio broadcasting. And today, when he walks away from his popular early morning show, The Lyons Den on WLBR 1270 AM, it will be with a mixture of remorse and pride and uncertainty.
For 41 years, Lyons provided the voice to which Lebanon County residents woke up, prepared themselves for the day, and drove to work. Quite accidentally, The Lyons Den became a local institution, a part of our lives, of what it means to be from Lebanon, PA.
“What you indicated is very true,” said Lyons, during a candid interview with LebTown on Thursday morning. “I’m not a party person or someone who has to be the center of attention. Some people thought I was anti-social or a snob. But there’s nothing further from the truth.
“It’s all part of an act,” continued Lyons. “What you do in radio is an act. It’s show business. You don’t have to be the person on the radio that you are in real life. Everybody has something going on in their life that’s making them unhappy, for some reason. It’s like, ‘You’re not alone’. When you think of it that way, it doesn’t make your problems seem so bad.”
Since 1977, from 5am to 9am every day, The Lyons Den program has been broadcasted over the airwaves by WLBR. That’s more than 10,000 shows, reaching countless listeners, from Lebanon County and beyond.
To say, Lyons has placed his own personal stamp on the locale would be an understatement. He did it his way, with a unique combination of preparation, spontaneity and experience.
“The mutual decision has been in the works for a couple of months,” said Lyons. “I turned 70 a couple of weeks ago. I was going to do it eventually.
“The way I feel right now, I’m in some sort of Twilight Zone,” added Lyons. “I just can’t believe it’s happening. It’s like a strange dream. I just can’t come to grips with the fact that it’s really happening. I’m not sure what’s going to happen afterwards. That’ll be my first challenge, finding something to do. Right after I throw away all of my alarm clocks.”
Over those years, The Lyons Den took on a life of its own. Those four hours became packed with news, weather, sports, opinion, Traffax, AccuWeather, the Pennsylvania lottery, fun, local tidbits and trivia, Personal Thoughts, History Mystery, Stump the Sports Guy and just the right amount of music.
“The early days are a blur,” said Lyons. “I don’t have a great memory for what it has become today. But the one thing I’ve learned is that, of all the things we do, the most important is the conversation. All the other things are secondary. The conversation is what people want the most. I’ve developed an ability to be a good conversationalist. But until this week, I didn’t realize what good of a job I was doing.
“It went by so quickly,” Lyons continued. “It’s hard to believe it’s over. I need a slap on the face. What we’ve been doing the last few years is a radio dinosaur. There are very few AM stations doing what we’re doing in the mornings. What we’re doing is counter to what other people are doing. My thinking was that that was the reason we’re number one.”
All delivered by Lyons. The Reading native developed a radio speaking style that caused listeners to think he was talking to them personally. There became a certain level of comfort in that.
“There’s two different ways of talking, when you’re on the radio and when you’re not,” said Lyons. “My voice is the same, but the delivery is different. My voice is recognizable. Someone once asked me, ‘Say something in radio.’ It’s like a foreign language. You do fake it a little bit.
“One of my claims to fame was my ability to sound like I was having a good time when I wasn’t,” Lyons added. “I never let my personal life interfere with what I said on the air. The show went on as usual.”
Part of Lyons’ connection with his listeners revolved around being in tune with them. For him it’s been easy, because where it counts most, he’s really no different than them.
“Sometimes you forget there are thousands of people listening to you,” said Lyons. “But in a way, you probably shouldn’t think about it. There’s always those people out there who are glued to everything you say. Feedback from listeners was always very important to me, and most times it was positive. It’s what kept me going. I always wanted to make sure listeners knew how much I appreciated their honesty and feedback.
“Someone recently told me, ‘Thank you for your service,’” continued Lyons. “From that point of view, I’ve been fulfilling a function. The downside of working in radio is you won’t get rich. I subscribe to the retirement plan similar to what Homer Simpson once told Bart, ‘save your money so you can buy more lottery tickets.’”
Lyons really knew little about Lebanon County when he came to WLBR 41 years ago. After working his way up the ranks at WRAW in Reading, Lyons was part of a mass employee exodus that came from management being assumed by a new group.
“It wasn’t always ‘The Lyons Den,’” said Lyons. “We hired a consultant in the ’80s to try to come up with things to juice up the place. I didn’t care for it at the time. But it grew on me and now it rolls off the tongue. It’s one of those things that’s going to be hard to get rid of.
“It is pretty amazing,” added Lyons. “I don’t think there’s too many people who have survived at a radio station for 41 years. I hope people will remember me. Somebody like Henry Homan was a legend. Everybody loved him. If I could achieve that same level of adoration, I’d be happy.”
There are positives and negatives with everything. There are some things Lyons will miss about his job, and other things he won’t. But he entertains few regrets.
“I’ve thought about that,” said Lyons. “ ‘What if?’ is a question everybody asks. There’s really no answer to how things would’ve turned out if I had done something else. It’s best not to think about it.
“Somebody asked me, ‘Do you ever get used to getting up at three in the morning?,’” Lyons continued. “I just like getting up in the morning. What’ll happen next, I don’t know. Everybody tells me I’ve got to find something to keep from going nuts. I’ll probably find a part-time job, but there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Somewhere far away from the bright light of the public spotlight.
Lyons can be heard one last time this morning through 9am on WLBR 1270 AM.
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of shows Lyons has completed over his 41 years with WLBR.
I’m sorry, but you’re afraid that people won’t remember you??? I think about you from 3,000 miles away in Seattle, because of you! When I was a kid going to Ebenezer next door I was in a group of kids who you gave a little tour and explanation of the station to, and it was amazing. It was the best day of elementary school! I was SO upset because we were the “smart kids” and you were like “Okay kids, let’s see who can get the closest to guessing the height of the radio towers, and whoever is closest will win this transistor radio.” Well, OMG, I wanted that thing so badly, but I said something stupid like 800 feet, and a kid named John said closer to 300 feet, so he won. Grrr. (I answered too quickly because I wanted to win – and John was SO happy to have been right, anyway, so it was okay.) You gave me a little boost in the “it’s okay not to be right all the time, because this is still awesome to be having the chance to do it” lesson. And my family life wasn’t all that great, so it WAS a great lesson… yeah, you’re stuck in my brain forever. Thank you for ALL of that, and all of the talk. It’s been an honor, sir. <3