TV pioneer Ruth Lyons was ‘Mother’ to daughter, staff and viewers

Ruth Lyons was invited into 7 million homes every weekday at noon. First on the radio, then on television on WLWT’s “The 50-50 Club,” she enlisted her audience at home – and the lucky few in the studio audience – to join her in a conversation on whatever topic she felt like talking about. Just being herself, she created the daytime talk show.

“To her millions of fans, Ruth Lyons was mother, homemaker, businesswoman, entertainer, and friend,” Michael Banks wrote in “Before Oprah: Ruth Lyons, the Woman Who Created Talk TV.”

Banks highlighted her maternal nature throughout his book. Her fans relied on her guidance and advice on matters from homemaking and the quality of her sponsor’s products to politics and race issues. Her staff and audience called her “Mother,” as she was fiercely protective and supportive of the people around her.

To one person, she was Mother.

Ruth Lyons' TV family at the peak of her popularity in late 1965: Front row from left: Bonnie Lou; Lyons' daughter, Candy Newman; Lyons; Marian Spelman and Ruby Wright. Back row from left: Bob Braun, Peter Grant and bandleader Cliff Lash.

Candy Newman grew up on her mother’s show and in the 1960s joined the cast, which included Bob Braun, Bonnie Lou and Ruby Wright.

“Ruth … never put business ahead of family,” Banks wrote. “She was, first and foremost, a mother to her daughter Candy. As she once told an interviewer, ‘I have only two major interests in life: my family and my job, in that order.’”

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