Ruth Lyons, (born Ruth Reeves Oct 4, 1905, died Nov 7, 1988) was a pioneer radio and television broadcaster in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is said Ruth Lyons accidentally invented the daytime TV talk show. Like Arthur Godfrey and others of the era, Ruth built a TV empire.
Lyons' career began at WKRC in 1929; she worked as a radio show pianist/organist. Ruth's first broadcast was accidental. She was pressed into service when a show host called in sick. She needed only a couple of minutes to become familiar behind the microphone, and took over as host.
Lyons prestige grew when she and other staffers broadcast non-stop during the Great Flood of 1937, calming listeners and asking for donations for the victims. Lyons praised the big-heartedness of Ohio Valley residents, but listeners said that their generosity flowed because they considered her a real friend and friends helped friends in need. In 1942, WKRC lost Lyons to WLW over a ten dollar raise. Owner Hubbard "Hub" Taft (Taft Broadcasting) later said that the ten-dollar raise had cost his company millions in advertising.
The 50/50 Club started on WLW Radio as "The 50 Club." Fifty women were invited to a daily, one-hour lunch which was broadcast live. Renamed "The 50/50 Club" when it was expanded to 100 people and expanded to television. It was simulcast on TV and went to 90 minutes. It was picked up by NBC for 11 months in 1951, Ruth bristled under the structured advertising, network time cues and loss of show control. The NBC idea died and the 50/50 Club returned to its local status.
Guests included Bob Hope, Arthur Godfrey and pianist Peter Nero, singer Arthur Lee Simpkins. David Letterman and Phil Donahue, both appeared on her show. Letterman appeared when Lyons' sidekick, Bob Braun, hosted the show in the 70s. In an audio biography of Ruth Lyons, called "Let Me Entertain You--A Ruth Lyons Memoir CD;" Letterman tells how his mother, who never turned on a TV or radio otherwise, was transfixed to both when the 50/50 Club was on.
Adopted daughter Candy Newman became an integral part of the 50/50 Club. She died of breast cancer in 1966. Ruth suffered a series of small strokes which took her off the air for some time. Those close to Miss Lyons say Candy's death took the life out of her as well. Ruth Lyons retired from broadcasting in 1967. She died on November 7, 1988.
The Ruth Lyons Christmas Fund provides Cincinnati-area hospitalized children with toys, Christmas decorations and even needed hospital equipment. Since its beginning, the fund has raised tens of millions of dollars.